Tarrytown Farmers' Market
Talulah Bleu Tarrytown Florist hosts the West Austin Tarrytown Farmers' Market on Saturdays
Tarrytown Farmers' MarketSaturdays, 9am-1pm
2815 Exposition, 391-9393, 391-9700
If you had a secret enclosed space right in the middle of the city, shaded by big trees and fed by a little spring, what would you do with it? If you're Lauren Tolley, proprietor of Talulah Bleu Tarrytown Florist, you'd turn it into a charming, pocket-sized farmers' and artisans' market.
"I lived in Munich for several years, and it's been my dream to create a neighborhood outdoor market like the ones everywhere in Europe," says Tolley. "West Austin needs more public gathering places."
The city's newest farmers' market has deep Austin roots. Tolley grew up in Hemphill Park; she returned three years ago after a decadelong absence, during which she earned an arts degree from Tulane, lived in Germany, and worked as a legislative analyst and political consultant in California. Her original idea was to find a shop or a gallery, but upon seeing that the venerable Tarrytown Florist on Exposition Boulevard appeared to have closed, she investigated and learned that it was in escrow for sale to a developer. When that deal fell through, she immediately bought the property.
Tarrytown Florist has an impressive history. Austin native R.A. Lewis opened the business in 1946 and worked in the same location until his death in 2000. The shop was so well known that it didn't need a sign; regular clients included Lady Bird Johnson, former Gov. Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, and Texas first lady Marialice Shivers. Lewis' widow, Mary Etta, and daughter, Suzanne Lewis, continued running the shop until they sold it to Tolley. With the business, she inherited "the oldest nursery/agricultural license in the state, granted to R.A. Lewis' father around the turn of the century."
Tolley says, "I hadn't planned on being a florist, but it just seemed wrong to close such a respected historic business." So she hired a master florist and began learning how to arrange flowers. The shop's focus is on local and organic plants and blossoms; it also showcases the work of local artists and crafts designers. "I always thought I'd call a daughter Talulah, and Bleu was my grandmother's name. The shop is really my first child, so that's where the name came from."
Along with the flower shop, Tolley acquired the wooded, spring-fed plot of land behind it – this is the area that she's landscaping and developing into an event space and the Saturday morning Tarrytown Farmers' Market. "It's been a gigantic rehab project, an exercise in adaptive reuse," she says. "It's like a little wild world in the center of town."
The market is open weekly on Saturday mornings. Currently, there are about 25 vendors, selling everything from goat cheeses to vintage belt buckles to soy candles to local honey. You enter the pleasant market space through an arched walkway beside the flower shop; there's ample parking across the street at Casis Elementary School. There's live music and chair massage therapy each week, and yoga teacher Krista Phillips conducts Yoga Kids exercises every half hour during the market. And of course, there are gorgeous flowers available in the adjacent shop.
As yet, there are only a couple of local farmers providing fresh organic produce for the market, but Tolley expects more as the summer growing season progresses. While there are a number of regional farmers interested in selling at the market, the current high cost of fuel is something of a deterrent to bringing their produce into town. "The farmers want to be sure there's enough customer traffic before they open stands," Tolley says. "And shoppers want to see more local, organic produce. It's kind of a Catch-22." Nonetheless, she's convinced that the market will only continue to grow with support from her Tarrytown neighbors. "I've been getting great feedback from the neighborhood," she says.
For info about shopping or selling at the Tarrytown Farmers' Market, call Charlotte Butterworth at Talulah Bleu (391-9393 or 391-9700).