Even under normal circumstances, I hardly ever set foot in what people would consider a typical grocery store. I’ve been lucky to live most of my life within reasonable distance of the farmers markets, tiny international grocers, and independently owned neighborhood shops that I prefer to big-box stores and shoppers’ clubs. In the ongoing pandemic, each trip to replenish my pantry essentials and perishables has become infinitely precious, woefully spaced out, and as supportive as possible of the locals.
But, despite the occasional enthusiastic recommendations I fielded from fans of Floral Park Market on the Westside, I was slow to check it out; its hyphenated nature—part flower shop, part grocery, part hawker of artisan wares—led me to assume it was some kind of fussy, gift-oriented place. What finally convinced me to stop by? Floral Park Market’s growing reputation as a destination where Atlanta-based health-food entrepreneurs sell their organic, vegan, gluten-free, and often raw prepared food. Plus, it’s open seven days a week.
Perched just above the Howell Mill Road reservoirs on a street nobody ends up on by accident, the store looks like it belongs in a quaint country town. I passed through tiny rooms crammed full of Tunisian towels, letterpress cards, and other carefully curated items and eventually ended up in a huge open space where tables are piled with attractive displays of baked goods and jarred pantry staples and walls are lined with refrigerator and freezer units loaded with items you won’t find anywhere else. There are no big brands anywhere, and way out in the back is a cool room with fresh flowers and pristine produce.
In 1997, James Olsen established a wholesale flower business, which he eventually moved into a former bakery on the Westside. Michelle, his wife of 22 years, grew up on a dairy farm in rural Connecticut; her passion for fresh, local food pushed the flower store to pivot to consumables in the fall of 2016. A vegetarian herself, she doesn’t mind selling fresh sausages, plump organic chicken leg quarters, and big crimson steaks cut from grass-fed local beef.
The prepared food is indeed worth the trip alone, ranging from turmeric hummus and dehydrated basil crackers (from healthy-eating guru David Sweeney of the late, lamented Dynamic Dish) to beauteous cold cucumber soup (from Simply Fresh), delicate fresh macarons (from Deborah Johnson, who lived in Paris for more than 20 years and was schooled at Le Cordon Bleu) to frozen wood-fired pizza (from a Brooklyn outfit that got its start on Shark Tank).
But that’s hardly the market’s sole selling point. There is a station for dispensing locally made Golda’s CBD kombucha on tap, shelves of local H+F breads next to two crockpots of boiled peanuts, and a large display of organic hand-milled grains. Floral Park Market doesn’t feel like a glorified convenience store. Everything from the spicy Portuguese tinned sardines to the roasted pecans whose proceeds benefit Meals on Wheels has been carefully sourced. If your ideal shopping list includes freshly baked banana bread, a bottle of elderberry syrup, high-quality CBD products, and in-house pickles, jams, and honey butter, there’s no better market in town. And as someone who has long been committed to the imperative to shop local, I’m kicking myself for not finding my way to Floral Park Market sooner.
This article appears in our October 2020 issue.