There are many reasons to visit the Downtown Phoenix Public Market.
Chief among them is the spectacular selection of eats available every weekend at the outdoor bazaar. And sometimes, the amazing eats come from an equally amazing person such as the captivating Belinda Powell.
The local pickle maker's homemade creations are devastatingly addictive and guarantee a return trip, as will the conversation and friendship you'll develop with her after just one visit. She's our kinda gal: fun, engaging, and damn good at making wickedly delicious pickles.
You'll probably hear Powell before seeing her, as she's got a ringing laugh that draws people in. Lines of friends and customers, both new and old, wait to visit and munch on free samples of her sweet, crispy converted cucumbers.
"The best part about being at the market is all of the people — I love meeting all of the different people. That and making pickles," she says.
The Phoenix native was born at St. Joseph's Hospital and has spent a lifetime here. And with her pickles. "The recipe is just something that has been in our family forever. I think my great aunt got the recipe from my grandma," she says. "I've been eating them since I was a little kid. I sold them to friends, and have been selling them for 29 years."
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We're regular visitors to Powell's spot at the market (721 North Central Avenue; visit www.downtownphoenixpublicmarket.com for hours), purchasing a jar or three every week. We also go because we can't resist the opportunity to say hello, and to spy whatever might be new. Like Belinda's latest concept — spicy pickles, made with jalapeños and Fresno peppers, whose slow burn tickles the taste buds. She created this concoction for her fans, who requested something Southwestern and with a kick, which it has in spades (just like the fiery pickle princess herself).
Powell's devotion to her fan base doesn't end there, as she's also hand-painted all the bags she uses at the market. "I did it once for the holidays, and everyone loved them. When I went to back to regular bags, everyone got mad, so I have to [always] do it now," Powell says with a chuckle.
Not that she's complaining, or anything. Powell, who's planning on retiring in December, is all about showing the love.
"I really enjoy doing it — it's fun," she says. "It's the people that make it fun."