Is Elkmont, Alabama the next Marfa?
If it's up to Tasia Malakasis, Elkmont Alabama will be the next Marfa. The place where all the cool kids travel miles out of their way to get to. We think she's onto something. The world-famous cheesemaker took a chance on Elkmont when she bought Belle Chevre creamery in 2007. Last year she opened an 8,000 square foot creamery. Now, right down the street from Belle Chevre and its sister tasting room, kindred spirits are following suit. We sat down with Tasia--yes there was goat cheese and candied bacon involved--recently and learned all about what's happening in Elkmont.
This small town, once made strong by cotton and the railroad, is poised for a resurgence, led by artisans, creatives, and enterprising business owners. "Elkmont is steeped in a very rich Southern history and culture and is now embracing its historical respect for the arts, food, and the maker in a modern way," she says, nibbling on sandwiches with what else but goat cheese.
"Saving old buildings that once housed cotton from its own fertile soil, artists are being lifted up and celebrated in monumental ways, and architects and historians are bringing traditions forward with a playful nod to the future of the town and the South as a whole."
So far the creamery, which offers tours and tasting, and the tasting room, has been the main draw for visitors. In the coming months, two new businesses will open just down the street from Belle Chevre, which Tasia believes will bring likeminded visitors to the tiny town.
Next month, U.G. Mercantile opens an outpost in the building which once housed a feed store, barber shop, and antiques store. The sister store to the Athens U.G. Mercantile (just down the road), it'll be packed with similar goods -- cast iron skillets, candy by the pound, oil lamps, and Patagonia. Plus there will also be a spot where visitors can rent outdoor equipment. (An 8.8.-mile Rails-to-Trails path starts at the restored railroad depot just outside the shop.)
Then in August, Artisan South opens next door. Owned by brothers Robert and Lonnie Key, the store will feature handmade, artisan goods from around the region. "No, we're going to sell real things made by real people," Robert says. Among the items that will be featured: furniture by Tennessee-based Alan Daigre Designs, handblown glass by Alabama-based Orbix Hot Glass and Cotton and Quill linens. Down the street there's the Red Caboose, which brings in singer-songwriters from around the region (13 Grammy winners so far).
And up the road, buildings are being refinished for the next person who becomes intrigued by the possibility of Elkmont. So what's with the Marfa talk? It's the "shared language for all genres of art swirling around" Elkmont these days and the hope of attracting visitors with similar interests. Consider us intrigued.
Elkmont, Alabama is located in North Central AL, 45 miles Northwest of Hunstville, 131 miles Southwest of Chattanooga. Belle Chevre's inaugural "Running With The Goats" (think: Pamplona's running with the bulls, but with goats) takes place Saturday, July 12. 10k, 5k, and fun run, and of course goat cheese.