Page 3 of 5
The Blazer brothers' resilience paid off as the store expanded and added hard-to-find cheeses, meats, and seafood to the shelves to meet growing customer demand. They even showed a sense of humor: When a silly local rumor spread suggesting snakes were hiding in the lettuce, Robert Blazer made shirts depicting a cobra pouncing from leafy greens with the words "DeKalb Farmers Market Snake Patrol."
"You have to realize that we were doing stuff way, way, way ahead of the curve," says Brian Maloof, the owner of Manuel's Tavern and son of Manuel, whose first job was selling watermelons at the market. "We had these seafood trucks, and they'd put this whole giant tuna on pallets that'd be 400 pounds or bigger, and they'd drive 'em in on a forklift and people would ooh and aah. We'd lay it on a table, and 10 people would cut fillets so perfectly. And as fast as people put them on ice people would buy them."
Customers from all walks of life, including the area's growing immigrant community, shopped alongside local notables such as the late community activist Hosea Williams, always clad in a red shirt and overalls and with an entourage.
"We used to open every day with lines of people trying to get in," Maloof says. "We had to tape pads to the shopping carts because the aisles would get so crowded that people's heels would get hit. Around Thanksgiving you couldn't get anywhere around that place. And here this man was, a New England Jewish guy in the South, providing jobs for people from Ethiopia and India and all sort of places. It was an awkward thing that was going on but it was so beautiful."
By the mid-1980s, the market was serving an estimated 70,000 people each week. The store had outgrown its footprint, and Robert Blazer, who spent a lot of time bargaining with tow truck drivers who tried to haul off customers' cars — knew a new site was necessary. He purchased 100 acres along East Ponce de Leon Avenue, including the old Scottdale mill, and began personally designing and overseeing the construction of the market's next phase. Work crews, aided by some South Georgia farmers, graded and prepped the property for three years.
What resulted was a 100,000-square-foot rectangular store flanked by a parking lot with strict rules for traffic flow modeled after — and designed by the same company responsible for — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport's lot. Upstairs included a giant auditorium that hosted company meetings, fundraisers. Now not only did the market finally boast refrigeration, but entire divisions set to different temperatures.
The years following the move to the Scottdale location would cement YDFM's reputation as a fundamental part of metro Atlanta's food culture, a haven for gourmets and the wildly diverse demographics changing the face of the region. But they also proved tumultuous for Blazer personally.
In 1987, his brother Harry left over what news reports describe as business and personal differences. Several months later, Harry Blazer opened "Harry's," his own mega-market in Alpharetta. The store leaned toward more high-end offerings and ready-to-eat meals. It soon spawned two other locations and a chain of smaller shops — and the occasional brother vs. brother news story in the local papers.
By many accounts, Harry's grew too fast. In the early 1990s, the company went public. Several years later, amid news reports of padlocked executive offices and boardroom disputes, Harry's appeared to be running into trouble. In 2001, the chain was purchased by Whole Foods. (Efforts to reach Harry Blazer, who several years ago opened a farmers market in Aurora, Colo., and now lives in Montana, were unsuccessful. Robert Blazer says they keep in touch and that, last he heard, his brother was racing cars. Internet search results show an involvement with a Montana-based music nonprofit.)
"He didn't start it for the community," Robert Blazer says. "He did it to show he was better. That's why he called it 'Harry's.' That's why I called it 'Your DeKalb Farmers Market.'"
Not long after Harry Blazer left the market, brother Robert had another worry on his hands. In 1988, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on the behalf of eight former employees against the market alleging they were fired or forced to quit after they refused to follow the teachings of "the Forum," a motivational program developed by Werner Erhard, the leader of the controversial 1970s "est" movement. Blazer, who joined the self-help program at the suggestion of a customer (he and wife Barbara met at a Forum retreat in the Catskills Mountains), said the program had given him a strongly needed boost of self-confidence, and he denied the allegations through an attorney. The case was settled the following year later for an undisclosed sum.
It takes an intelligent person to properly maintain and accurately shoot a firearm. I guess…
Had narrowed the field (for Georgia DipShit of the Year) to Jason Spencer or Hans…
"You would think that the gun manufacturers would make the firearms idiot proof, but I…
"you seemed to have replaced it with an equally unrealistic view of the world wherein…
I have met Don Balfour and he does come off as a little arrogant which…