Since 1779, 42 years before Missouri became a state, the Soulard Farmer’s Market has remained a cornerstone of the St. Louis community. The market- place is located in St. Louis’ historic Soulard district, which is named after Antoine Soulard, a surveyor who first developed the land after taking refuge from the French Revolution.
The market had humble beginnings, originating as a place for local farmers to sell their crops, but the market quickly became one of the busiest trade locations in St. Louis in the early 1800s.
In 1838, Julia Soulard, widow of An- toine Soulard, granted two blocks of her land to the city of St. Louis with the con- tingency that the site be used as a public market in perpetuity, or its ownership would revert back to the Soulard heirs.
The market possesses a rich history and has been visited by many high-profile figures. Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president of the United States, sold firewood at the market years before becoming a general during the American Civil War.
The foundation of the market was established in 1843, and the current, much larger marketplace was constructed in 1928 and is now home to over 50 vendors and shops.
Julia’s Market Cafe, an alcohol shack famous for its Bloody Marys, has re- mained a marketplace staple for over 10 years. “Julia’s is named after Julia Soulard, the founder of the market,” said Tom Gullickson, co-owner of Julia’s Market Cafe. “Soulard means Drunkard (in French) ... but we say Happy Drunkard here at Julia’s.”
Gullickson insists that Soulard Market is a community-oriented establishment with a lot of personality. Ryan Burrus, the market manager, supports that claim. “You can find anything from produce to soaps to clothing to live animals here at the market ... and plenty of crazy characters, too,” Burrus said. Outside of Burrus’ office hangs a sign that reads, “Please keep your feet off the walls.”
The market’s age is visibly apparent inside the building, with old, arched, French architectural doorways through- out the corridors, partnered by sprawling brown brick walls, parts of which are cracked and mismatched. It’s certainly an odd sight to see an Amish-attired farmer selling vegetables next to a vendor selling fidget spinners and vape juice.
Burrus mentioned that as the market manager he has seen shops come and go, but the core of the market remains the same. “Some of the family-owned [shops] have been a part of the market for over 100 years and span multiple generations,” Burrus said.
The Soulard Spice Shop has been in business at the market since 1914, and has been owned and operated by the Schmitz family for three generations. “There are so many stories about the market. Too many to write down,” saidLynda Schmitz, the current owner of the spice shop and member of the family’s third generation. “Plenty of celebrities have visited the market over the years, from Susan Sarandon to former Presi- dent Bill Clinton. We’ve been in busi- ness for over 100 years. There’s a lot of history here.”
Schweiger’s Produce, the longest- running produce vendor at the market, has been operated by the same family for four generations. “Schweiger’s has been a part of the market since 1884,” said Christi Schweiger.
“The family business started by trans- porting crops here by horse and buggy from a farm in Shoto, Missouri, and it’s evolved ever since,” Schweiger said. Today, the shop spans four vendor locations and sells candy in addition to fruits and veg- etables. “Our family and our business have grown with the market,” Schweiger said.
While family traditions are a common trend at the market, Burrus insists that just about anyone can set up shop at the market with the proper licenses, and that any and everyone is welcome to shop atand visit the marketplace. “Soulard is a very tight community with a lot of his- tory, and the market is a place for people to share in that history,” Burrus said.
The Soulard Farmer’s Market operates year-round, and the outdoor areas are open during the winter months. The marketplace is open every week, Wednesday through Saturday, with prime shopping hours on Saturday morning.