Catherine Sloss Jones and her family have played a large part in making Birmingham into the city it is today. Hear from the president of Sloss Real Estate and the founder of Pepper Place in our second interview with Birmingham innovators!
Tucked away in Five Points behind Bottega and Galley & Garden, Sloss Real Estate seemed like a great place to talk about Birmingham and the role Mrs. Jones has had in shaping it. We’re so thankful she took the time to share her experience and wisdom with us.
I know Sloss Real Estate is family owned. When did you start working with the company?
My grandfather started Sloss Real Estate with a partner in 1920. My dad worked with my grandfather. My grandfather died in 1974 and I rolled in the next year after I graduated college. So we’ve been family operated for a long long time.
What do you love about what you do?
I love imagining what can be. I love asking what makes the best city? What are the best ingredients for making a really great city?
I’ve always thought we lived in the most beautiful city in the world. My real inspiration for the work was “how do we convince people to come back to the city?”
From her years of experience with Sloss Real Estate, Mrs. Jones had a lot of great wisdom on what makes a good innovator and how to successfully tackle big projects.
Would you consider yourself an entrepreneur?
That’s a really interesting question. I would say yes. I love starting things. But I think you have to build a great team. You can have a great idea and you can see things and that’s a lovely gift to have, but without a team that can implement it, it’s not worth a lot.
Sloss Real Estate originally started working on Pepper Place when they bought their first building in 1988. They envisioned it as a design hub within the Lakeview district, which has historically been a central location for designers.
From Pepper place came the farmer’s market we all know and love. It was fascinating to hear how it got started and how it’s changed business in Birmingham.
Pepper Place farmer’s market is obviously huge now. How did all of that come about?
I think the farmer’s market is my favorite thing we’ve ever done. When we started we only had 7 farmers and small family farmers were really endangered. We’ve had about 60 businesses spin out of the farmer’s market. We’re like a low tech incubator for the city.
We started it in 2000 and a lot of the chefs like Frank Stitt and Franklin Biggs were big supporters. They recognized that if they were going to be great chefs they had to have great, local food, so they were champions for the farmers early on.
What’s one lesson you’ve learned from leading Sloss Real Estate?
The most important thing is to have a clear vision at the beginning of a project and to make sure that there’s a place for everybody at the table to talk about it. Invite a lot of people to the table and be very clear about what your basic principles are.
What does Birmingham need to work on the most?
We are so fragmented. We need to work on connecting the dots between things and having unified governance. We are starting to work on how to make Birmingham more walkable and improve transportation.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in Birmingham?
That’s tough. I’m such a foodie. Last night I had dinner at Bettola and it was amazing. It’s so hard to choose because we’re surrounded by such wonderful food!
What’s your favorite thing about Birmingham?
The people here are so extraordinary and we all love this place with everything we’ve got. We recognize the beauty that we live in a work hard to preserve it.
The food is extraordinary, the art is extraordinary, the history is extraordinary, our music is extraordinary. All of those things that make a city a wonderful city, a place where people want to live. We have an embarrassment of riches in Birmingham.