The parking lot of a brewery might seem like a st range place for a farmers market, or at least it would have 10 years ago. But now, on Wednesday afternoons, from spring through fall, crowds stroll the parking lot of Schlafly Bottleworks, perusing fresh wares from farmers, bakers, florists and other artisans. They’re all there for the Schlafly Farmers Market, a beloved Maplewood tradition, now in its 10th year.

Appropriately enough, Schlafly Bottleworks opened on the 70th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition in 2003, says properties and sustainability manager Tom Flood. An old supermarket at 7260 Maplewood Ave. proved an ideal spot for the growing microbrewery. “The building was originally a Kroger, then a Shop ‘n’ Save, and had been sitting vacant for awhile,” Flood says. “Revitalizing an old building is what we always wanted to do. That’s what we did downtown with the Tap Room when we started in ’91.”

The old building provided Schlafly with the space needed to bottle beer, which at the time was done out of state. “We were initially looking in the city,” Flood says. “But we liked the supermarket because of its horizontal space. It works out much better for brewery operations.”

More than a place to sample local brews and grab a bite to eat, it didn’t take long for Schlafly Bottleworks to evolve into a true community meeting place that hosts a variety of live music, festivals and events throughout the year.

In 2004, a year after the Bottleworks opened, the farmers market, originally called Maplewood Farmers Market, was co-founded by Schlafly and Julie Ridlon, previously of Chanterelle Catering, who also founded the Clayton Farmers Market in 1999, Flood says. “Ridlon pointed out that a lot of farmers are in town on Wednesdays to make restaurant deliveries, so it would be great to have a farmers market then, and we loved the idea,” he adds. “We thought it would be a good way to stand out among the other craft brewers.”

From the beginning, the market has seen tremendous community support. “Back when we started it, there weren’t that many farmers markets around,” Flood says. “The community has been into it as long as we’ve been at it, and the farmers like it, too.”

That year also marked the birth of Schlafly Gardenworks, more than half an acre adjoining the brewery. Besides growing thousands of pounds of produce for use in both the Bottleworks and Tap Room restaurants, Gardenworks hosts a variety of educational events throughout the year.

The microbrewery’s growth into a community gathering space wasn’t planned, Flood says. “It just kind of morphed and happened organically,” he says. “Yes, we’re all about beer, but even before Maplewood, we had created a little community place at the Tap Room. We’ve always been about bringing people together over food and beer. And here at the Bottleworks, we had room for a garden and a farmers market, so we did it.”

WHAT // Schlafly Farmers Market
WHEN // 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, April through October; 8:30 a.m. to noon one Saturday a month November through March
WHERE // Schlafly Bottleworks, 7260 Southwest Ave.
WHY // To purchase locally grown and crafted goods and to support local growers

Photo courtesy of Schlafly