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Pete Sloss, a transformative figure in Birmingham’s real estate scene, passed away last month. We spoke with his daughter and CEO of Sloss Real Estate Company, Cathy Sloss Jones, about her father, Sloss Real Estate, Pepper Place, and what we can all do to keep the farmers market going strong.
Pepper Place: the beginnings
Sloss Real Estate Company, an urban redevelopment company, was founded in 1920 by Jones’ grandfather. “When my grandfather died, I joined the company and went to work for my dad,” said Jones. “We bought the first Pepper Place building in 1988, and it grew from there.”
Pepper Place as we know it today was very different back then. “Everything was abandoned around us,” said Jones. Although her father was initially unsure about the concept, he supported Jones’ vision for Pepper Place and especially the farmers market.
“Once it started working, he got behind it and loved it 100 percent. He went to the market every Saturday he could.”In fact, before he passed away, Sloss said his two favorite things about Birmingham were the Market at Pepper Place and Sloss Furnaces.
The Market at Pepper Place
The Market is certainly something to be proud of. It’s grown tremendously since it started 19 years ago. It’s received national recognition, including being named the best farmer’s market in Alabama by Delish.com. More than 10,000 visitors attend each week.
According to Jones, Pepper Place Market began as an effort to support local farmers.
“The catalyst for starting the market was to preserve family farms,” she said. “I was on a board, and one of our members told me that if we didn’t do something, there would be no small family farms left in Alabama in two years.”
Jones enlisted several local chefs, including Frank Stitt and Franklin Biggs, and together they convinced seven Alabama farmers to be part of the market. Chefs featured the farmers on their menus, giving them recognition in the community. The community, Jones says, has been a huge part of the market’s success.
What the market means for Birmingham
“Birmingham is recognized for its strong, integrated food system. The Market works closely with the community food bank, chefs, SNAP/EBT, and the Jones Valley Teaching Farm, among others. Almost all the players in our food ecosystem participate and collaborate with the Market.”Cathy Sloss Jones, president and CEO of Sloss Real Estate
Attending the market and supporting local farmers is wonderful, of course, but unfortunately tent fees don’t cover the costs of operation. The Market at Pepper Place is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and must rely on sponsorships, grants and community donations for support. The market staff has been working tirelessly for 20 years to ensure the market’s success, and it’s up to the community to continue to make it happen.
How to donate
Since her father’s passing, “everyone has been so supportive,” said Jones. If you’d like to give something to the Market in Pete Sloss’ honor or become a supporter in general, you can become a Friend of the Market here or donate to the market via this link.
We’re so lucky to have a market like this in Birmingham, and even more excited to watch it grow over the next 20 years!