Take a Stroll Through Palafox Market
Palafox Market draws an eclectic crowd every Saturday to the heart of downtown Pensacola. It’s the place to get seasonal vegetables, flowers, art, treats and more — and to get a peak into diverse lives of some of the people from around the area.
Markets tell you a lot about a city or place. They are the first place I’m drawn to when I travel. They offer a window into the culture and feel of a city - the local materials available to craft there; the seasonal vegetables, flowers and fare offered; and a peak into the diverse lives of the people that make up that community.
The beautiful thing about most markets is that they are inclusive by nature, any local trade is accepted and appreciated. It just has to be local. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing a trade for 40 years or four weeks, there’s always a place for you.
Palafox Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the heart of downtown Pensacola. People flock here every weekend for their fix of local treasures, getting just enough to last the week so that they may return the next weekend. Below you’ll find a quick peak into the lives of three of the many fascinating people that occupy the market space every weekend.
Local farmer Carl Stewart has been at the market every weekend for over a decade now. He makes the drive twice a week all the way from Bay Minnette, Alabama – once for the market and once to make deliveries to local restaurants such as Pot Roast & Pinot and Apple Market.
“I just do it to have something to do,” Stewart said. “Being able to plant seed and see it come up and grow and produce something, it makes you smile.” Carl has lived on the same land for more than 70 years. He began farming his father’s lands full-time after he retired from his day job.
Carl went on to explain to me just how much the market has changed over the past decade and the progress he’s seen. “It began one just one block,” he expressed. “Now it covers three. The market really exploded when it moved to a year-round venue.”
When visiting the market, you’ll probably find Carl seated in a bag chair wearing an Auburn Tigers hat with his grandson working by his side. Will you be one of his new regulars?
For those not familiar, the Graffiti Bridge is an old railroad overpass that has turned into an iconic landmark and work of living art in the Pensacola community. People have been painting, decorating, declaring and expressing on the trestle as far back as 1935 and guess what? It’s legal!
Joseph Seurkamp’s love of the bridge began roughly four years ago when he started photographing it as a hobby. “I kept noticing how often it was changing,” he said. "At first, I wasn’t going as often, but I would go in the morning and take a picture and then you know I’d be driving back by it later that day and see something completely different, so it kind of intrigued me at that point.”
Little did he know that his entire life would be altered on assignment one day when he discovered a piece of paint lying on the ground that had fallen off of the bridge. Approximately 6 feet long and 2-to-3 inches thick, he decided to take it home and start experimenting – the rest is history. Soon, TheGraffitiBridge.com was born.
People can now find renditions of the bridge locked into jewelry pieces, wall art, mugs, t-shirts and whatever else Seurkamp can imagine for the week. Don’t ask about his creative process, because he won’t tell you. He does promise that everything is handmade.
Seurkamp credits a lot of his success to being a part of Palafox Market. “When we first started people loved the idea, but getting them to spend money was a completely different story,” he said. “I guess no matter how much somebody loves something, getting them to come to your website, put in their credit card information and make a purchase – that’s a big step and to be unknown in the community, it’s truly a difficult thing.”
Seurkamp made several attempts to get into Palafox Market and was unsuccessful at first. He was a day away from shutting down his business when he got the call.
“Without those people at the market I wouldn’t have known what to do, they guided me along the way, and they still do,” he said. For the first few weeks of the market, he didn’t even have a canopy to set up his artwork under and someone let him borrow one. “It chokes me up a little bit because I didn’t realize how much of a passion I would develop for the bridge.”
If you’re strolling the market, stop in and say hello to Joseph. He’s a man that conveys utter dedication and love in what he does. Make sure to visit his tent at the market to see his creations, or better yet, tag the Graffiti Bridge and be a part of one.
East Hill Honey
Thomas Van Horn started his business by accident really. A friend of a friend was moving across the country, with bees in tow, he swerved on the Pensacola Bay Bridge to avoid an accident causing thousands of bees to pour into his truck cab. He quickly decided that the bees had to go and called his friend Frank, who would later gift those same bees to Tommy.
At the time, Van Horn was committing himself as the executive director of a local non-profit. While the work was fulfilling, he was often on the road fundraising. In his first year of beekeeping with just two hives, 200 pounds of honey would be produced and sold in just a matter of weeks.
Those bees would go on to start a dream and build a dynasty of nearly 900 hives that produce almost 60,000 pounds of honey locally every year.
“I went to school for meteorology, I was a weatherman initially, but I’ve always appreciated the seasons and the outdoors, so to be able to participate in that actively has been very rewarding,” Van Horn said. “Then to just be able to create a product that we can stand behind that’s beneficial to the environment and the community, that’s a feeling I can’t express, it’s really cool.”
Be sure to stop by his booth and taste for yourself the different flower varieties of honey that Van Horn’s bees produce – like Tupelo, orange blossom, wildflower and gallberry.
Van Horn went on to express how the honey business has connected he and his family to the community, specifically Palafox Market. “The Palafox Market really is a little gem, I’ve visited other people and I know beekeepers nationwide and no one really has the foot traffic or the involvement comparatively. They’re shocked by the average number of people that come down to the market, the number of vendors, the number of sales that we have at the farmer’s market for a relatively small town.”
For now, Tommy and his family are living the dream, working together to produce honey. It’s simple and it works and it allows him more time to watch his kids grow up.
Have you ever visited Palafox Market? If so comment your favorite vendors and their products. Tune into my next Live Local Pensacola blog covering the incredible people that work in, on and around the surrounding bodies of water.
"It's not about my story, it's about yours" Lindsey Steck is a marketing associate for Visit Pensacola. A Pensacola native, Steck enjoys hosting dinner parties, traveling as much as she can and NFL football. She moved away for a brief period following college and soon returned after realizing why people vacation and retire to the coast.
On the weekends you'll find her scouring the closest market with a fresh bouquet of flowers in her arms and a macaron in hand.