Food Issue - A look at Buford Highway Farmers Market, a multicultural shopping mecca

Where else can you find obscure Russian mustards, 50 types of kimchi, tortillas made in house?

The intersection of I-285 and Buford Highway is at the heart of one of metro Atlanta's most diverse neighborhoods. Here you'll find Korean tofu soups, carnitas tacos in the back of a Mexican market, tongue-tingling Sichuan food, trendy jewelry on the cheap, and amazing foot massages where they'll soak and rub your tired toes for an hour for $25. At the center of it all is Buford Highway Farmers Market (5600 Buford Highway, 770-455-0770, www.aofwc.com), where locals and visitors come to shop an incredible assortment of products ranging from frozen Japanese fish cakes to fancy rice cookers to house-made borscht.

The market was founded by the Shinns, a family of Korean immigrants who have owned one sort of food store or another in Atlanta since 1974. In its early years, the Buford Highway Farmers Market was strictly an Asian grocery. In 1991, the market expanded to a 48,000-square-foot space that formerly housed a Lionel Play World, adjacent to its current location on Buford Highway. After attempting to go mainstream by adding more products, the Shinns shifted the market's focus again to accommodate the large influx of Hispanic immigrants who continue to make up a large part of the market's customer base. Around 2000, the market expanded to its current 100,000-square-foot Buford Highway location a half a mile north of I-285.

Today, the Buford Highway Farmers Market is a multicultural shopping mecca. Where else can you find obscure Russian mustards, 20 types of kimchi, 60-foot-long aisles lined with dried noodles from all over the world, tortillas made in house, nearly every type of produce imaginable (including a growing organics section), bags of fancy Japanese rice the size of a toddler, and arguably the most robust seafood counters in the city?

Although the Buford Highway Farmer's Market is a completely different store than when it first opened, it's still a family-run business. There is no fancy governing body that has no emotional stake in the store's future making the decisions. Instead, it is still a mom-and-pop operation responding to the needs of old customers and new alike.

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