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The Henderson County Curb Market celebrates 100 years          


IMAGE COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR
 

By Missy Craver Izard

 

The Curb Market has been a local Hendersonville tradition since 1924. What began as a group of farmers bringing their extra produce to town for the “city folk” has expanded throughout the years to include some of the freshest fruits and vegetables, plants, fresh cut flowers, homemade jams, jellies, baked goods and handmade mountain crafts. On June 1, 2024, The Curb Market will celebrate its 100th birthday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. with a big shindig.

The brainchild of local farmer, banker, author and radio personality Frank L. FitzSimons, Sr. and Noah M. Hollowell, a local newspaper publisher, journalist, banker and civic leader, the Curb Market was born out of the need for a centralized location for farmers to sell their goods in the early 1920s.  In an effort to do away with door-to-door peddling, FitzSimons wrote a letter to the local newspaper outlining his proposal for a central market along the street, called a “curb market” — a concept he had seen in Europe during the First World War. Hollowell published the letter and the two men became the visionaries who made the market a reality. After nearly two years of planning and much opposition, The Henderson County Farmers Mutual Curb Market opened on May 30, 1924, on a city-owned lot on Main St., with seven farmers and their wives for the first vendors.

To be a seller at the market, one was required to be a resident of Henderson County and to make or grow all items sold. This still holds true today. In Pat Walker and Terry Robinson’s book Members of the Henderson County Curb Market, 75 Years of Memories, Laberta Brown Lamb describes her parents’ early days of the market:  “My mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. W.W. Brown, were one of the seven couples who attended the opening day of the Curb Market in 1924. They had dressed chickens, rabbits, corn, beans, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, beets, radishes and sometimes a hog. My grandmother, Mrs. Lulu Dill, made what she called drawn work, which consisted of pillowcases, scarves, tablecloths and napkins. We sold flowers —asters, dahlias, peonies, wildflowers and shrubs.”

Within just two years, The Curb Market had outgrown the Main St. location, so in 1926 the organizers purchased a lot on King St. and constructed the first enclosed market space. By the late 1930s, the Market had outgrown this site as well and moved to Church St., where it stands to this day. What had started on rugged tables and wagons under umbrellas with seven couples eventually grew to 101 tables and 120 sellers. A rousing success from the beginning, The Curb Market operated as an association with a board of control until 1933, when it incorporated and became a non-profit farmers’ cooperative organization with a five-member board.

In the early days, vendors paid a five percent sales-day commission, which changed with the market’s incorporation to a fixed annual fee and the purchase of Curb Market stock at $1.00 per share. Stockholders could rent up to two tables and often shared tables with other family members. Throughout the years, many of these booths have been passed on to children and relatives of members, with four and five generations tracing their Curb Market lineage back to its inception. There are also several vendors without this connection; new member eligibility is determined by the board and is centered on Henderson County residency as well as locally grown and hand-made products.


The vendors

As a child, I grew up spending summers at Lake Summit and going to camp in Flat Rock. It was always a treat to accompany my mother to the Curb Market. She frequently told us it was important to get there early especially if you wanted blackberries or cut flowers — they always went fast. The big mountain tomatoes were what we called one-slicers and the best ones for “sink” sandwiches — as in, necessary to eat over the sink. There were hand-woven rugs, potholders and placemats along with wooden toys, dolls, birdhouses, wreaths, bonnets, crocheted afghans and quilts; a huge variety of produce, jams, jellies, honey and pickles … and Mrs. Pace’s artichoke relish — what I’d give for some now! Mrs. Horne’s sinful caramel cake and the long-gone days of Lori Heatherly’s 20-egg pound cake fill my memories of Curb Market visits.

Ersie Griffin Ratliff Davis, a.k.a. the Storybook Dolls Lady, made three-in-one dolls with Little Red Riding Hood as her signature figure. Ersie had a booth at the Curb Market for 64 years and was manager of the Curb for 22 of those years. Her booth was the star attraction for me as a child and the place I often found my own daughters when they accompanied me to the Curb Market. Ersie’s Storybook Dolls represent several characters in one doll and the main character flips over to reveal the others — in this case, granny and the wolf are on the other side of Red Riding Hood — a completely captivating (and even a bit magical) experience to a young child.

My earliest remembrance of the Curb Market is this very doll and the incentive to find mine. After a three-day expedition through our house, I finally uncovered Red Riding Hood; a bit tattered and torn, considering a 30-plus year nap. A good washing and mending rendered this storybook doll good-as-new and off she went to Colorado for my granddaughter’s birthday.

Velton A. Searcy made wooden toys, slingshots and Gee Haw Whimmy Diddles, a simple Appalachian stick toy made of native rhododendron. Known as the “toy maker,” Velton specialized in making old timey wooden toys. His toys are part of the Tryon Museum collection of the very famous Tryon Toy Makers. One of my first purchases from Velton was a Noah’s Ark I bought for my son.

Handwoven rugs made by Albert Ledbetter, Ida Barnwell Freeman and Kenneth Justus fill my house. They are made from cotton clippings from hosiery mills that make men’s socks. The clippings (called “loopers”) are collected, dyed by hand and set in the sun to dry before the material is woven into a rug. For years, I bought mine from Albert’s late mother Louise Ledbetter — one sharp saleslady. Louise got her start making rugs in the sixth grade for a lady at the cost of 25 cents apiece, which her client took them to the Curb Market and sold the rugs for $1.25 each. It didn’t take long for Louise to see that the real money would be in striking out on her own.

The table next to Louise belonged to her sister, Gladys Barnwell. Gladys and her husband, Odell, sold products from their family apple orchard. Odell’s sister, Ida Barnwell Freeman, had the table next to them. All of these booths have now passed on to the next generation who continue to run their family businesses there (and we thought Charleston genealogy was complicated…).

Donald and Doris Dill Moore make rustic, wooden birdhouses and feeders, my go-to housewarming present and one of the best buys at the market. They are scattered all over my yard and porch offering a safe haven to my fine feathered friends. Linda Justice’s jalapeno raspberry jelly is addictive and a fabulous appetizer with cream cheese and crackers. It makes a perfect holiday gift as do many of Linda’s other jams and jellies. The most expensive item I ever bought at the Curb Market is a beautiful Noah’s Ark made out of cherry by David Taylor. It was a grandchild moment — need I say more?

For years, Nancy Ball supplied me with many cut and dried flowers. Her parents Nancy Ann and Ben Justice, started with the Curb Market in 1924 and her son, Shannon, is the fourth generation in their family to maintain their booth. When my daughter was married in 2010, I arranged with Mrs. Ball to buy buckets of her peonies for the bridal bouquets and table decorations. Sadly, Mrs. Ball passed away two weeks prior to the wedding, and I did not know until two days before the wedding when I arrived to pick up the peonies — all waiting in the buckets for me and gathered by her family. Tears streaming from my face, I loaded the car with the beautiful flowers and mourned the loss of this dear Curb Market icon.

If you get to know the families of the Curb Market, you will soon realize they are part of a precious heritage of these mountains. Many have spent a lifetime there and feel like it is home. For generations, the market has offered them a means to make a living and provided a way for many women to contribute to their family’s income and educate their children. When people ask me what the Curb Market is, I simply tell them that it’s the best church bazaar in the country.

While you are there, take some time to talk with the vendors. Their stories of the Curb Market are fascinating. You might learn the story of the rabbit’s foot or the location of the old meat counter or how they once had boxes of adorable kittens and puppies — free to a good home.

 

A retired summer camp director and art teacher, Missy is an entrepreneur, speaker, author, journalist, community leader and the recipient of several awards including the White House Champions of Change. 

 

 

To Be boxed

 

Curb Market essentials

·       The Curb Market is located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Church Street.

·       Open Thursdays and Saturdays in spring, summer and fall.

·       Open Saturdays in winter.

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