Southerners love a good story. An unanticipated summer breeze, accompanied by a tall glass of iced tea (sweetened, of course) and the equally sweet conversation of friends are things we treasure on porches throughout the South. Little did I know, my partners at The Boxcar Grocer would provide such a conversation during my recent visit. Though the sweet tea and porch were missing, I was in for a great story of how this convenient market came to be.
Alison and Alphonzo Cross always wanted to work together. In fact, the two have been close since childhood; the siblings are only a year apart in age. Their interests, however, were quite different. Alphonzo studied communications, earning his masters in film and video, while his little sister pursued a degree in architecture from Barnard. Though their paths were different, the skill sets garnered within both school and their previous careers were complimentary. So, what was the impetus for these two moving across the country to Atlanta from San Francisco to open a corner market? Farmland! Wait. What?
Though they were raised in both California and Texas, Georgia wasn’t foreign territory for the siblings. Their father’s family owned 165 acres of farmland in Swainsboro, so they’d visited the state often for family gatherings. Time on the farmland fostered their deep sense of respect for land. Unfortunately, after the loss of their father, the siblings were unable to prevent the 2009 sale of the farmland that had been within the family for generations. The Boxcar Grocer is their reaction to that emotional loss – a way of reconnecting to land and showing respect to the earth that provides the food we eat and, in turn, facilitates the lives we live.
Alison and Alphonzo adopted the railroad as a theme, and included the iconic Pullman porter within branding of The Boxcar Grocer. Located in Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill community, theirs is a nearly 100 year-old building within a neighborhood of mostly African-American owned businesses. Since 2011, the bright and welcoming market has featured locally sourced organic foods and products in an urban area where one might not expect such options to be easily accessible. Much like the railroad, it serves as a connector.
Though healthy food options abound within the market, the two let me know their personal cheats. For Alison, it’s Nona Rose’s Gingerbread Pizzelles crumbled atop High Road Craft Ice Cream. Alphonzo prefers to indulge in Homemade Joy’s Chocolate Walnut Wonderful Cookies. All of are made locally in Atlanta.
The siblings’ goal of connecting the community with nutritious foods and education has been quite successful. In fact, they will be opening another market location by the end of the year, and have partnered with Kollective South to offer a co-working and communi-tech center next door to their current space. Classes with Om Point Yoga and, of course, etiquette and leadership training with Charm Etiquette are also offered within the convenience market.
July is National Ice Cream Month. Celebrate with a visit to The Boxcar Grocer, where you’ll receive a discount of 10% off any Honeysuckle Gelato or High Road Craft Ice Cream purchase by simply mentioning this post. Both are perfect additions to your next front porch conversation!
The Boxcar Grocer | 249 Peters Street SW | Atlanta, GA 30313 | 404.883.3608