When the Alabama Power office in West Blocton closed down last year, many people were concerned that the community was losing something. At the same time that so many positive things were moving forward in West Blocton, suddenly it seemed a step backward. However, one of the things moving forward was the West Blocton Farmers’ Market, and it needed a permanent home. That’s when serendipity stepped in.
The building was originally built and owned by Alabama Power, but years ago was bought by new owners, who leased it back to Alabama Power. After the office closed, the they listed it for sale again. It was perfect timing for the new West Blocton Farmers Market.
“Last year, the West Blocton Farmers Market (WBFM) changed locations too many times throughout the season. We felt that the size of the lot surrounding the Alabama Power building, and the lighting in the parking lot, would make for a nice permanent home for the outdoor farmers market,” WBFM organizer Kathy McCulley said. She purchased the building and put a plan into action. The purchase was completed just as work began on a lineup of events. “But, then came the virus.”
No further events have been scheduled so far, pending the pandemic. The building is not just for the WBFM, however.
“The Bloc is the new name for the closed Alabama Power Building,” Kathy McCulley explained, “The pre-pandemic intent for the building was for it to host various community gatherings, including the West Blocton Farmers Market. We held a Facebook contest to give the building a new name, and felt that ‘The Bloc’ was fresh and forward thinking. The logo includes a power plug, in memory of the former use of the building, and the byline ‘Get Plugged In’ just made sense.”
Taking new life as a local market and event venue, the building will undergo some renovations. But those will happen over time.
“It has been cleaned out and cleaned up. The physical makeover will take place slowly as time permits. Right now, no modifications have been made to the exterior – and the interior was already set up just the way we need it for the current situation,” McCulley added, “At this time, the public isn’t allowed to enter the building – hence, the curbside pickup and delivery options.
“The Farmers Market season wasn’t supposed to start until the first Thursday in May. With grocery stores being packed with people and having limited amounts of beef and other items that our vendors have available – we decided it would be in the best interest of our farmers and the citizens of Bibb County to improvise and do what we can while we can. As our vendors have products available, we have them deliver their items to The Bloc. The current inventory is kept up to date and “pinned” to the top of the WBFM facebook page. Right now, we take orders on behalf of our vendors via text, phone calls, messenger, and Facebook comments. Each person gets their own personal shopper to pull their order together, and a time is set up for their curbside pick-up or delivery,” McCulley elaborated.
The system is designed to help people get fresh food during the shelter-in-place order, but will likely continue even after it is over. The response from the public has been better than expected, and vendors are working hard as well to keep The Bloc stocked.
Fresh strawberries delivered from Cox Cattle and Produce, ready for packaging to sell at The Bloc by West Blocton Farmers Market.
“It has been incredible, really,” Kathy went on, “We are working on our 2nd steer from River City Cattle. They were the first to participate in this new format. We have eggs from Triple C Farms, local honey from The Farm at Pea Ridge, and peanut butter from Medders Family Farm. We have just received our first delivery of strawberries from Cox Cattle and Produce, where we took pre-orders for 150 quarts of strawberries in a two hour time frame. The pre-orders allowed the grower to know what the demand looks like in the area – and to prevent waste or spoilage.”
Because of the success of the new drive-thru format of shopping with orders placed remotely, they plan to continue doing things that way, even during the regular schedule of the WBFM. With the shelter-in-place possibly lifting soon, but social distancing continuing to be encouraged, it seemed the logical thing to do, as well. Drive-thru will allow the regular Thursday night markets to take place, even if people still aren’t allowed inside the building.
Follow The Bloc and WBFM Facebook pages at the links here to keep up with what’s available and place orders direct.