Okay, so it doesn’t have a fountain of youth. But judging by the crowds it draws every day, you might think it does. Ponce City Market, Atlanta’s liveliest mixed-use development, was named as a nod to the natural spring located on its site, once believed to have healing, youth-boosting properties.
Today, you’ll have to rely on the restorative powers of stylish wares from hip shops and heritage brands; fresh-pressed juice or craft coffee; creative, chef-driven bites and cocktails; or even a whirl through a rooftop carnival. This is Ponce City Market: a vast, adaptive reuse project and the latest chapter in one of the South’s most fascinating sites. First a fair, then a healing springs, the site became a distribution center for Sears, Roebuck & Co. in 1925. Decades later, the property took a brief turn as Atlanta’s “City Hall East” before it was purchased in 2011 by Jamestown Properties, the forward-thinking developers behind NYC’s famed Chelsea Market.
Despite how beautifully the building’s architectural integrity has been preserved, it’s not likely that history is first on your mind when you’re here—there’s simply too much to experience. Intriguing stores line the periphery of the market, shop doors propped open in welcome, while the Food Hall pulses with an energy you can feel. Ponce City Market also includes office space and residential lofts, but if you’re making a weekend trip, you’re probably here to shop.
Fuel Up // Three James Beard Award–winning chefs, a winery, and a rooftop concession stand are among the many savory options awaiting at Ponce City Market, including Indian street grill Botiwalla’s chicken tikka roll wrapped in a hot buttered naan.
While high-end national retailers like West Elm and Williams-Sonoma dot the shopping center, it’s the refreshing mix of heritage brands, stylish outfitters, and artisan vendors that makes the market so interesting. The indoor shopping malls of the ’90s were loved because you could find something for everyone. Ponce City Market shares a similar vibe—although the “something” might consist of a fedora, period-authentic lighting, hand-painted stationery, custom-tailored denim, or a bespoke bicycle. Unlike the shopping malls of yesteryear, Ponce City Market hums with a personality all its own. It’s Atlanta, but it’s bigger than Atlanta, too. Wandering among the restored brick columns or over the creaky, original hardwood floors, you can sense the spirit of industry and innovation that characterizes today’s “maker movement” but surely fueled Sears, Roebuck & Co. decades ago.
The best way to explore Ponce City Market is to follow your heart; in other words, stroll and see what catches your eye. Maybe you’ll want to work your way from the top down with a stop at Goorin Brothers. Established in 1895, the San Francisco hat maker stocks its shelves with fedoras, straw boaters, vintage felt ball caps, and, best of all, a feather bar to deck out your purchase. If you’re still in a nostalgic state of mind, pop over to Rejuvenation to brighten your pad with period-authentic lighting and vintage-inspired home accessories. Next door, Southern “dealer in whimsy” Sugarboo & Co. offers a fragrant escape into the gift shop of dreams offering everything from artisan beard oil to feel-good wall art to hand-poured candles.
Market Gains // Shop ’til you drop and eat your heart out at Ponce City Market: Goorin Bros. hats, Daniel Wellington Swedish watches; homegoods store Sugarboo & Co.; a cocktail at The Mercury; hand-crafted bitters, shrubs, syrups, and more at 18.21 Bitters; and Citizen Supply, which features a varied mix of bespoke goods, are a sample of its offerings.
It’s probably time for a coffee or snack break, and you have plenty to choose from: Spiller Park Coffee, Lucky Lotus juice, Honeysuckle Gelato. Don’t linger too long—the second floor of the Food Hall includes standouts like bespoke shoemaker Cobbler Union and makers market Citizen Supply. This curated artisan marketplace spotlights a rotating mix of goods from small batch, local, and sustainable brands. Local “ATL” love is evident throughout the airy store; light pours in from sky-high windows. It’s hard to say just what treasure you’ll walk out with, but you won’t leave empty-handed.
Closet need a boost? Breeze through Ponce’s impeccable selection of apparel and accessory shops: Ponce Denim Co., a sleek denim bar designed to equip you with your perfect fit; Daniel Wellington, Swedish maker of elegant, minimal watches; Rye 51, men’s luxury apparel with an in-store whiskey bar; Marine Layer, for the softest, sustainably-made clothes this side of San Francisco. On the way back to the Food Hall, be sure to pop into Archer Paper Goods, a happy, camp-themed shop brimming with paper goods, stationery, and trinkets.
Good luck deciding where to eat—there’s no lack of delicious options. For a long, lingering kind of meal, duck into the dim, mid-century swankiness of The Mercury. Feeling more laidback? Try Minero, the casual Mexican joint from James Beard Award–winning chef Sean Brock, who tasted 40 varieties of corn before perfecting the Minero tortilla. Or, trek to the other side of the globe with a stop at Botiwalla, a fun kaleidoscope of Indian street food from the team behind Asheville’s Chai Pani. Heads up: if you stop here, a foil-wrapped, flavor-packed chicken tikka roll may be your favorite purchase.
The day isn’t done yet. You can keep shopping with a cocktail to go (!), thanks to The Mercury or Biltong. Or you can pile your bags in the car and then head up to The Roof for a chill evening in the Nine Mile Station beer garden or the fun-filled Skyline Park with carnival games and a good bar. Looking out over Atlanta from here, the letters of Ponce City Market’s neon sign etched in sharp relief against the sky, you might find yourself feeling a little lighter and relaxed than when you first arrived. A little younger, even. And that’s worth a trip.
Getting There // Ponce City Market is about 2.5 hours from Greenville. 675 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA. (404) 900-7900, poncecitymarket.com. Mon–Sat, 10am–9pm; Sun, Noon–6pm (many shops stay open until 8pm); Food Hall: Mon–Sat, 11am–9pm; Sun, Noon–8pm