What started as an idea to sell boiled peanuts has quickly become Alabama’s must-stop spot for beach travelers and a frequent destination for locals in the Andalusia area.
Sweet South Market opened in June 2019 at the intersection of U.S. Highway 29 and Alabama Highway 137. Childhood friends Jennifer Bradley and Rosemary Guilford reconnected as adults and realized they had much in common. Both were nurses, both were mothers of four children and both had a bit of entrepreneurial spirit.
They also both enjoyed doing the things many Southern women love to do.
“We both like to bake. We both like to make things,” Guilford said. “We both have roots with canning and doing things like that. We love to garden.”
And, they wanted to try to earn some cash off of their hobbies.
“We were thinking about a way we could make a little extra money on the weekends and we thought we would maybe sell some boiled peanuts,” Guilford said. “That was our first idea.”
Bradley said they had the idea for a small market and they thought the ideal spot near their homes was the intersection where travelers on their way to and from the beach – places like Destin and Fort Walton Beach in Florida – pass through each summer.
“We just wanted to make some extra money, and my husband is a peanut and cotton farmer, so we figured we would contact the landowner and see if he would be willing to rent it and he came back and said, ‘You know what, we will just sell the whole thing,’” Bradley said. “So we bought it and it just kind of evolved.”
It evolved quickly. From the converted grain silo that serves as the Sweet South Market sales counter to the classic pickup with sunflowers, the property has quickly become a destination for locals and a respite for beach travelers.
Boiled peanuts, sunflowers and some of the produce from their garden was how Sweet South Market started before adding produce from local farmers and even peaches from Chilton County.
Customers would ask for certain things and Sweet South Market would find a provider to add them to the mix.
“One thing kind of led to another and we have tried to keep things local, and try to keep things local to the state as well,” Guilford said.
“Now we’re more than just peanuts. We’re more than just produce,” Bradley said. “We have a lot of gifts. We try to support our local farmers as well. Most of our products are local or local to Alabama. We’re very thankful for that and the support the community has shown to us.”
Guilford said deciding a name for the market was a bit of a challenge.
“We had a very hard time coming up with a name that we felt represented us as individuals and this area that we call home,” Guilford said. “We wanted a place where our visitors feel welcomed and at home while they are here and we wanted a name that reflected that. We feel it represents us well.”
Sweet? They have the strawberries, peaches, watermelons and other fruits you would hope to find when they are in season. They have honey, a variety of baked goods, and you can get lemonade, ice cream or a combination of the two they call “Alabama Sunshine.” Bradley and Guilford themselves are sweet and helpful, so they’ve got both definitions covered.
South? I think we’ve established that the owners are Southern ladies and, as far as geography goes, it’s in south Alabama, a stone’s throw from the Florida line. Southern hospitality is on full display.
Market? This is what it’s really all about. In addition to carrying their own produce and goods, the market has become a great outlet for farmers, makers, artists and craftsmen in the area. Muscadine juice, jams, jellies, salsa, peach salsa, pecans, peanuts and pickles are among the edibles, while home and yard décor and T-shirts are also for sale.
“People who come through can see what Alabama has to offer and our community has to offer,” Bradley said.
A recent stop revealed cars in the parking lot with tags from Tennessee, Illinois, Georgia, Florida and all across north and central Alabama.
The location ended up being perfect, as beach travelers make their way from one highway to the other.
Guilford said they get a lot of “regulars” who support Sweet South Market.
“That definitely helps us, but our locals have been really, really good and supportive to us, too.”
Celebrities also have stopped by. Most recently, singer-songwriter, author and humorist Mark Lowry included a visit to Sweet South Market while he was in Andalusia visiting online cooking sensation Brenda Gantt. Jeff Cook of the band Alabama and Sadie Robertson from “Duck Dynasty” fame are others who have stopped by.
“You just never know who is going to pop into this little market,” Guilford said. “We are so grateful.”
One of the biggest benefits has been getting to experience it all with their combined families, Bradley said.
“The friendship that she and I have and the families have kind of joined together and we all work together really nicely,” she said. “Her children work here, my children work here, my aunt and uncle work here, my mother-in-law works here. It’s a great family effort.”
Sweet South Market is south of Andalusia at the intersection of intersection of U.S. Highway 29 and Alabama Highway 137. It is open Thursday through Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can find them on Facebook.