10th Annual Market Day has French roots

By MADOLINE MARKHAM

There’s a reason people start calling Mountain Brook Village stores in the spring to find out the date of Market Day. When the white tents go up, they know it’s time to brave the heat for the European-style sidewalk and tent sale. The sales, up to 75 percent off or more, draw in shoppers from surrounding states as well as regular customers looking for a deal. The event will be held Saturday, July 23, 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. this year.

“There are lots of new faces in the village and people browsing around,” Frank Davies of Little Hardware said.

“For us it’s as big if not bigger than Christmas,” said Patricia Murray of Table Matters. “We try to keep it fun and exciting. What we do will be a surprise this year.”

The Lingerie Shoppe has an alley sale with bras up to 75 percent off in a back room accessible down the alley next to the store. Little Hardware hosts a cooking demonstration and serves refreshments and snacks. This year Beverly Ruff Antiques is hosting Ginny MacCormick for a signing of her Sunday in the South cookbook.

“We have to get our inventory out because it’s taking up space,” said Christine’s Owner Jean Clayton. “We go to market in the summer and get shipments in the fall, so we’re putting everything you can think of on the street to sell.”

It was Clayton who was instrumental in starting the event, not as Market Day, but as a Bastille Day festival.

For several years she had held a sale at Christine’s on Bastille Day, a French holiday commemorating the storming of the Bastille. When she returned from a trip to France in May 2001, Dinah Toro of Charlotte Woodson Antiques had gotten together with Patricia Murray at Table Matters to plan a village-wide sale on Bastille Day to build on the sale at Christine’s. The three gathered help from other merchants and planned the whole French-themed festival in six weeks.

Red, white and blue streamers hung from lampposts blowing in the wind. Clayton brought back “Viva La France” buttons and berets from France for merchants to wear. Strolling accordion players provided music during the day, and a Cajun band provided music in the afternoon. French poodles processed in a parade. There were end-of-summer sales at 12 to 15 stores in the village.

Marius Orsini, owner and Chef at Rue du France, a French bakery located in what is now Olexa’s, provided French pastries. The Frenchman suggested a waiter’s race, the only one in Alabama at the time.

Waiters from restaurants around Birmingham carried trays with full glasses of wine and a wine bottle in a speed walking race.

Other event organizers that first year included Catherine Carmichael of Andrea Carmichael inc., Wesley Lassen of Cook Store, Patricia Murray of Table Matters, Mary Carson LaRussa of A’Mano and Liz Sandner Rich of Barton-Clay Jewelers.

After three years with Bastille Day festivities, the event evolved into Market Day, held on the third Saturday in July. The event, now organized by the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce, dropped the French theme in the fourth year and focused on the growing popularity of the sales.

“It grows every year,” Clayton said. “You can’t imagine the number of people.”

“It’s festive to us, just the quantity of people that come,” said The Lingerie Shop owner Brenda Meadows.

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