At the Woodlawn Marketplace in Birmingham, economic empowerment can be both beautiful and delicious.
The marketplace is a business incubator created by REV Birmingham, a revitalization and economic development nonprofit. Under a single roof, entrepreneurs pursue their dreams to build businesses around their handmade crafts and food-related products. All are veterans of the periodic Woodlawn Street Market run by REV and the Woodlawn Merchants Association.
Like the businesses it helps hatch, the Woodlawn Marketplace started as a pop-up. Its debut in the fall of 2021 was such a success the pop-up was extended, which inspired REV to create a more permanent, year-round operation.
Launched in October 2022, it is open Wednesday through Saturday from 7 a.m.–3 p.m.
A café and coffee shop dominate the space on First Avenue South, familiar to some as the one-time home of the popular Woodlawn Cycle Café. The other marketplace vendors’ goods are displayed on tables and shelves, with refrigerators to hold fresh food and juices.
Several vendors sell handmade jewelry and other arts and crafts. But food and drink entrepreneurs play major roles at the marketplace, starting with the two anchors, TRVL Love coffee house and roastery, and Pearl’s Café.
The white brick building housing Woodlawn Marketplace can be tricky to find. Although it’s on First Avenue South, the location actually is north of the railroad tracks that otherwise bisect north and south Birmingham. The marketplace is a block from First Avenue North, between 55th Place and 56th Street.
With a focus on food, here are a few maker highlights:
TRVL Love Koffee
The owners, Anita Craig and Chauncey Moore, blend their love for coffee and travel with their roastery and coffee shop. They produce premium single-origin or single-region roasts, as well as blended beans. Coffee drinks like Caramel Crème Brulee, hot teas and cocoas are available to drink there, or take to-go. TRVL Love’s stated goal is to build a company that is socially responsible and a platform for diversity and inclusion. It seeks raw beans that are ethically sourced—free from chemicals, fair-trade certified, and not produced through slave labor or slave wages.
Pearl’s Café connects community through food and love, serving fresh and healthy food while providing training and employment to people with disabilities. The concept was inspired by owner Wendy Lawless’ aunt, Cathy “Pearl” Wiley, who had an intellectual disability. Pearl blossomed after getting her first job at age 58, becoming both a workplace and customer favorite. The café serves made-to-order breakfast and lunch—mostly sandwiches like its house-made pimento cheese—as well as prepared food to grab on the run.
Jacqueline Jackson grows herbs, microgreens, and vegetables using organic practices at the urban farm, Mattie’s Garden, which is named for her grandmother. Jackson may be familiar from both her farm stand at the Woodlawn Street Market and the Birdsong Farmers Market in Birmingham. Look for seasonally-appropriate food picked at its peak.
Change of Plans
Looking to get healthy in the new year? At Change of Plans, health coach Chanice Nykole will guide you through her company’ line of healthy treats, organic juices, and nutrition guides. Nykole’s goal: changing your plans and changing your life while wowing your taste buds.
WE Made sells baking mixes and home goods made by participants in WE Made Inc.’s four-month vocational training program designed to build job-readiness and life skills for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment. Its products also are sold in dozens of retail stores nationwide.
Bemele Candles are scented and hand-poured from soy wax. Pronounced “Sassy,” SASC Custom Designs sells custom-made doormats hand-painted by the owner, Shareta Collins. Marsuko Jewelry specializes in eclectic earrings made from polymer clay by owner Angela Santiago. At Soulsistah3.0, Tamica Banks stocks her custom designed wood burn earrings and pins, plus natural skin-care products. The jewelry at Soh’Gent CA’belle gets its vibe from crystals, cleaned with harvested rainwater and charged under the moonlight. Element and Vibe bills itself as creating style and empowerment through its fashions, one garment at a time.