Walking into Mauldin Open Air Market is like taking a journey into the past and all that was good about it. There is a friendly, cozy feel about her establishment from the U.S. flags that mark its perimeter to the wooden shelves crammed with local products one would be hard-pressed to find in one place anywhere else.
Joel Ann Chandler started the business, located on East Butler Road across from the Mauldin Senior High School and next to the Ray Hopkins Senior Center, over 30 years ago. Initially just a stand for displaying local produce, it has expanded to its current structure over the years. It now boasts hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Her business offers fresh, local produce as well as seasonal items such as pumpkins and Christmas trees. The place is renowned as a vendor for local specialized products such as: Happy Cow Creamery products, Gentry Farms blueberries, McCall’s country pork sausage. Hampton Farms pimento cheese, Blenheim ginger ale, Vince Perone’s sauces and lasagna, Suber’s cornmeal, boiled peanuts, ginger candy, and local honey to name a few. They even sell live bait and pine straw. She says that her customers are important to her. “If you don’t have them, then you don’t have a business.” Ms. Chandler believes in treating her customers right. If someone wants something that she doesn’t sell, she helps them find it and may even add that to her stock to meet customer demands. For this last New Year’s Day, hers was one of the few businesses with fresh collards—she sold 136 bunches in less than an hour with customers lined up at the door.
Ms. Chandler lives across the street from the business where she is sole owner. She says that her grandfather kept buying up the land there. A man of small build, he made his living by planting cotton, harvesting peaches, and raising livestock like hogs and cattle. During the winter, he performed carpentry to supplement his income. Ms. Chandler laughingly says that she learned to climb peach trees before she learned to walk.
Ms. Chandler loves Mauldin, has been here all her life, and feels that it is a fantastic town in which to reside especially with the growth that is occurring. Through her business, she has come to know many people in this community. She first met some folks when they were teenagers and now, they have families of their own. She says that “the most important thing you can do in any business is to put God first.” Beginning with just two boxes of tomatoes, she had expanded by 1999 to a tractor trailer truck for bringing in her inventory. In describing all of this, Ms. Chandler simply smiles and says that “God blesses us every day.”