Candler Park Market: A country store with city appeal

Ricky Johnson, Robin Graham and Greg Hutchins
Ricky Johnson, Robin Graham and Greg Hutchins
Photos by Isadora Pennington

The Candler Park Market is a cornerstone of the neighborhood, housed in a relatively unassuming building on McLendon Avenue. A row of tables lines the side of the building under the awning and it’s common to see kids hanging out after school or locals catching up over lunch.

I came to know the market when I was staying in a drafty attic apartment next to the Lake Claire Land Trust. At the time I was living out of a mini-fridge and I relied heavily upon the market for my daily or weekly groceries. Years prior, I worked at Doctor Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party across the street, and I had become familiar with the friendly staff of the market. The impact of the market on the community was evident by the constant influx of customers and tokens of appreciation on display for all to see.

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The board above the cash registers is plastered with photos of children and parents who have been sending Christmas cards to the market for years.

 

Robin Graham, manager of the deli, told me about the experience of getting to know these families. “We get the news they’re pregnant, then we feed them through their pregnancy, then we see the kids grow up and they start sending us cards,” she said. It’s clear that the staff of the market feel deeply tied to the community they serve.

Ricky Johnson
Ricky Johnson

Ricky Johnson, store manager, has been working at the market for more than 23 years. Starting off as a stock boy, he worked his way up to his current role. “With the bus stop in front of the store for junior high and high school, I know most of the parents and I’ve seen the kids grow up,” Johnson said. He has been the friendly face at the counter almost every time I have gone to the market, and if you’re looking for something in particular chances are very good that he will know exactly where it is.

Greg Hutchins
Greg Hutchins

Greg Hutchins, general manager and partner, has been with the market since 2004 when his brother-in-law, Dirk, asked him to come on board. It was in 2006 that Greg took over full management with a big influence in the direction of the market’s evolution. In these last two decades, Candler Park Market has become well known for their vast beer and wine selections as well as their locally sourced produce, goods, extensive deli and a large selection of candy (personally, this is my favorite aisle). In addition to sourcing from local businesses like Alon’s and Holeman & Finch, the market often works with individuals who make products on a much smaller scale.

“There’s this one guy called Lion Tamer who started off renting a commercial space making this incredible sourdough,” Greg told me. “That’s all he makes, and he delivers it daily.” Robin nodded in agreement. “It’s really good,” she said with emphasis.

Locally-sourced produce
Locally-sourced produce

“As far as I can tell there has been a market in Candler Park as long as there has been a business district,” Greg said of the establishment. The market originally began as an A&P supermarket located in the row of retail fronts across the street. The business was purchased by “Mac” McMichael, who built the current market on what was at the time a vacant plot of land. The store has gone through several owners and has changed names since that time, constantly evolving to meet the ever- changing needs of the neighborhood.

A regular described the market as a “country store meets Whole Foods,” a phrase that Greg thinks is fairly accurate for their scope of services and goods.

It’s clear that Greg feels strongly about the market’s ties to the neighborhood in listening to him speak about his experiences there. As an example of their dedication, he told me that the market remains open on Christmas and Thanksgiving as “our way of saying thank you to the neighborhood.”

“It’s a point of pride to stay open, because we feel like we are a resource to the neighborhood,” Greg said. “We really believe in supporting the local economy. That’s an important aspect of helping the Atlanta economy grow, and as the Atlanta economy grows, we grow.”

The Deli counter
The deli counter

The deli, under Robin’s direction and vision, has undergone the most significant changes in recent history. Tucked into the back of the store, the counter was pretty small and cramped. Knowing that he would need someone to take the helm to get the renovation and revitalization underway, Greg found his solution in Robin.

Robin Graham
Robin Graham

“When we first hired Robin it quickly became apparent that she was that person,” Greg said. “Whatever success we have there is mostly due to her and her team.” Indeed, the deli has a team, and they’re known as the Deli Babes.

The deli crew
Deli Babes

“We have a lot of creative individuals back there, so that makes it easy,” Robin said of the deli staff. Recently the deli began offering catering and prepared meals in addition to their full-service sandwich bar. Boasting Southern favorites like pimento cheese, buttermilk cakes and egg salad, the coolers alongside the deli are packed to the brim with handmade, locally sourced foods to take home as well.

The Cali Veg with Garlic Fries
The Cali Veg with Garlic Fries

Another recent addition to the deli is the selection of baked goods, ranging from chipwiches to brownies, which are made by Ashley Daxton, one of the deli employees. In the two years since Ashley came on board she started her own baked goods company and has begun to sell them via the deli. It’s just another example of how the market continues to encourage and support the successes of their community.

At the end of the day, the market is an incredibly well-rounded and community-minded shop, providing a valuable resource to the neighborhood it serves. Next time you’re in the neighborhood, stop in and meet the market crew or grab a bite from the deli. “It’s very likely you’re going to find everything you need,” Greg said.

Isadora Pennington

Photographer, designer, writer, & artist. FILA

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