Founded as a brewery in 1883 but resurrected as a cultural and culinary destination beginning in 2002, The Pearl has been heralded as “the crown jewel in revitalization efforts of Downtown San Antonio,” striking the fancy of tourists and even of hometown-averse San Antonians (my boyfriend included). The city’s industrial past headlines The Pearl’s restoration in the repurposing of the old brewery’s large, masonry-walled rooms into restaurants, cafés, and boutiques, a bit of trendy nostalgia, if you will. Meanwhile, the weekend Pearl Farmer’s Market makes use of the complex’s sprawling open space by hosting stalls offering fresh, artisanal products grown, raised, or made by local vendors from within a 150-mile radius of the area.
We recently took a quick weekend trip to San Antonio, mainly to attend my niece’s third birthday party. Alex and I both grew up in San Antonio but hold different sentiments toward what is commonly overlooked as Texas’ second largest city. (He thinks it’s boring, while I think it’s nothing short of magical.) I suspect it’s that our formative college years separately spent in these two cities skew our respective preferences for one over the other.
Either way, he and I both agree on missing San Antonio’s hills and pervasive sense of history. I’ve always felt as if Houston is focused on the new, while San Antonio lives alongside the old. There’s definitely an indication of this at The Pearl.
The Pearl Farmer’s Market stands in the shadow of the Cellars at Pearl apartments. With that name, I’d venture to say the apartment building functioned as… the cellars for the brewery in its former life.
In all my limited beer knowledge, I had to ask Alex what purpose the fountain below served before it settled into its fate as an industrial-chic water feature. The simple answer: “Brewing equipment.”
At left is the brewery acquired by San Antonio Brewing Association, parent company to Pearl. While the original brewery ultimately closed in 2001, it was the largest in Texas by 1916 and was the only San Antonio brewery to survive prohibition! The brewery’s heritage lives on in the form of Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery, which now occupies the space. (And with that, thanks for reading my study on How many times can I say “brewery” in one paragraph?!)
At right is a 6-month-old Goldendoodle named Mookie (spelling up for debate), whom his human says was supposed to be a mini Goldendoodle but has clearly defied all such dimensions. Mookie was one of many dogs spotted at the Pearl Farmer’s Market, alongside:
- Amateur photographers angling for the perfect shot of some serrano peppers
- Professional photographers positioning their clients for a tender maternity shoot (This is clearly a scenic area.)
- Boy Scouts speedily delivering hefty plates of French toast (I, too, still have questions about this.)
- A gathering of classic cars beside an Indian food stand
- A kiosk dedicated entirely to lavender-infused items
- “Peaceful Pork,” a stand whose logo featured a cartoon pig in meditation pose (For a complete list of vendors, click here.)
… and so much more.
I’ve only been to the Pearl Farmer’s Market twice but have always enjoyed the sense of craftsmanship it exudes, whether it’s through the stalls selling the fresh, new, and local, or the looming, repurposed brick buildings alongside which they stand.
I could have bought all the succulents at the Pearl Farmer’s Market were it not for the knowledge that I am hopeless at keeping even the heartiest of plants alive. Alex even went so far as to hyperbolically tell his mom that “Courtney loves killing succulents.” It’s not that I love doing so! It’s almost as if these vibrant green spikes devolve into shriveled brown carcasses by virtue of that fact that they’re under my care.
Alex is a fanatic for naturally scented soaps and candles. Though he might object to that description, he can spend hours sampling scents in bath shops and would probably have done the same at this stand if we hadn’t had to run to my niece’s birthday party shortly thereafter.
While Alex is still coming to terms with his new role as a blogger boyfriend, I’m proud of the effort he’s put forth in taking photos of me. I’m quite pleased with the candid shot below that makes it look as if I’m cheesily contemplating the essence of San Antonio, especially with that sliver of skyline in the background.
In all seriousness: This past weekend was more of a family affair, with our time split between Alex’s and mine, but I’d love to return to San Antonio to spend an entire weekend playing tourists in our own hometown. Downtown San Antonio is replete with cultural and historical richness that few people recognize, but, once you do visit, you’ll see that the city has done a masterful job at preserving, honoring, and revitalizing its heritage.
Pearl Farmer’s Market Details
312 Pearl Parkway, San Antonio, TX 78215
Saturdays, 9am – 1pm • Sundays, 10am – 2pm