As the seasons change, the air lightens, and spring growth begins to peak its way out of the ground, there is a new bloom in Auburn. The growth of a fresh tradition has sprouted and is exposing its vibrant glory at the corner of South College Street and Donahue Drive. Auburn’s longtime, locally owned Blooming Colors has branched out, adding a fresh produce market and a made-to-order café. The Market at Blooming Colors and The Crepe Myrtle Café offer a unique dining and shopping experience where a focus on local growth, local talent, and local commerce create an atmosphere that is community-minded and full of consumer vigor.
Blooming Colors owner, King Braswell, has always had a passion for farming and growing produce. Upon graduating from Auburn University’s Department of Horticulture in 1990, King and his brother, John, began operating a wholesale growing facility in southern Lee County and sold Christmas Trees and Auburn-grown plants seasonally out of a rudimentary greenhouse at the corner of South College Street and East University Drive. When John, the marketing/retail guru of the business, deployed to Operation Dessert Storm, the need for a more permanent retail facility was discovered. And in 1993, the team constructed a new facility, named Blooming Colors. At this new location, a large supply of plant materials and gardening gift items were offered to the public and continue to be sold there today.
Beginning as a basic garden center, Blooming Colors has expanded through the years to a full-service horticulture business, offering assistance to patrons that include: landscaping, container planting, outdoor room designs, plant rentals for special events, design classes, Christmas decorating services and more. Still, King’s desire to bring his clientele into the store on a more regular basis, while also fulfilling a personal desire to farm, led him to the concept of the produce market and café.
“Provide food, and people will come. Provide food grown locally, and people will come with energy and excitement. Provide food grown locally and cook it into something delicious, and people will come and stay, shop, and eat, and you bring the process full circle,” shares King on his thoughts of growing, selling and eating local produce.
In the spring of 2009, King and his agricultural/business mentor, Jimmy Cleveland, planted four acres of vegetable produce and eight acres of pumpkins that were all pesticide free. The harvested crop was sold to local restaurants and was one of the first produce sold to patrons of The Market at Blooming Colors and The Crepe Myrtle Café. The crop was also traded with farmers across the state in order to offer a wide variety of produce and organic foods to the market’s consumers. Today, The Market at Blooming Colors has a cooperative effort with farmers (all within in a 150-mile radius of Lee County) in order to sell the freshest produce around.
Zucchini, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, Satsuma oranges, lemons, grapefruits and more can be purchased at the market, seasonally. Strawberries harvested in Chambers County at Lee Dempsey’s farm are available, along with fresh peaches and corn picked at 6 a.m. in Montezuma, Ga., and are ready to purchase at the market by 8:30 a.m. on the very same day.
These green groceries are served to order in The Crepe Myrtle Café where a local chef creates savory dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The café specializes in crepes, a thin pancake-like pastry, spun to order and filled with the freshest ingredients.
“The crepes sold at the café are similar to ordering the best entrée at a high-end restaurant served with all-natural, fresh ingredients and wrapped into a convenient roll, that makes eating while strolling through the garden center or greenhouse convenient,” says King. The café also serves Café Du Monde coffee blends and organic muffins for breakfast, as well as the Boudreaux’s Blanket — a homemade crescent roll wrapped around Alabama’s Conecuh County sausage and served with a café mustard blend. Soups, salads, homemade desserts, Dietz and Watson meats, and gourmet cheeses are available as well. The café offers catering services, tasting events and cooking classes on occasion, and it serves as a hotspot for local artists to display and sell their work.
While a focus on local consumption continues to be the center of the Blooming Colors motive, the business is inspired by a horticulture industry that appreciates the joy and thrill in starting something as a seed and growing it up all the way through the marketplace. A new bloom sprouting in an Auburn business is leading to a new branch of local economics in the Lee County community.
Blooming Colors/The Market at Blooming Colors/The Crepe Myrtle Café
Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday,
5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.