Court Square Market in historic Abbeville caters to wholesome living
Apair of women lounge on a bench just outside the Court Square Market. They sit quietly, occasionally glancing up to gaze across downtown Abbeville’s historic square. Their ankle-length skirts, plain shoes, and white bonnets—pulled taut over neatly tucked buns—match those of a handful of other Mennonite women who saunter in and out of the store behind them.
There is something simultaneously classic and eclectic to this downtown square, where American flags punctuate the sky and Confederate monuments occupy the greenspace; the streets are uneven and the awnings are colorful. Court Square Market sits at the heart of it all, occupying an old drug store, with original hardwood floors and airy charm. The Mennonite grocery store has been here for a little more than two years, but it feels like it could have been here for generations.
The retail grocery business has long been a part of Marv Stoltzfus’s life. On this day, the owner of Court Square Market takes orders from behind a long glass case, where sundry cuts of meat and links of sausage are stacked and chilled in neat lines: premium Lebanon bologna, hickory-smoked bacon, and apple-maple sausage all share cooler space with thick-cut pork chops, hulking steaks, and chicken.
“It’s the best meat you’ll ever eat,” a woman offers, spying my notepad and pen. Marv wraps her cuts of meat, all premium-grade and Midwestern-raised, in plain white paper before handing them over.
“The quality of our product is what we’re known for,” Marv offers, confirming his customer’s aside. As he speaks, he motions to several bonnet-clad women who mill around the store, stocking shelves and checking out customers. These same women also do all the baking, Marv says, and everything is made fresh and sold fresh. So while the bulk groceries are sold Tuesday through Saturday, the fresh meats and baked good are available only three days a week, Thursday through Saturday.
In the Mennonite tradition, simple living allows one to focus on God, and simplicity abounds on the shelves of Court Square Market. Stoltzfus, just 26 years old, grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania—Dutch Country—as the youngest of four sons. His father and two of his brothers still run a central market there, which dwarfs his Abbeville shop. He’d planned to work at his father’s store, but met a girl from Abbeville and moved South. Despite the geography and size differences, both markets offer many of the same bulk foods.
And although many of the shoppers here are Mennonite, just as many plain-clothed folks frequent Court Square for its fresh offerings and irresistible selection of grains and groceries, all simply packaged in clear containers or plastic wrapping with clean white labels. From rainbow popcorn to raw milk, the neatly stocked shelves are almost like artwork. Row upon row of bulk grains, pastas, and spices fill the store’s center, while farm-fresh ingredients like cheese curds and raw milk, local eggs, and cheese spreads fill cooler cases around its perimeter.
Then there’s the baked-goods display, which sits at the shop’s entrance, overflowing with aromatic confections in tin pans—ugly cake, apple turnovers, chocolate whoopie pies, buttermilk biscuits. And the cinnamon rolls, huge and hidden beneath a thick layer of glistening cream cheese frosting.
Wholesome has never been so decadent. Simplicity has never been so indulgent. Amen and amen.