The first time Taylor Blanche had money to spend as a youngster, he bought a box of cookies at an old corner store in Baton Rouge’s historic Spanish Town neighborhood.
While it’s changed owners and names over the years, the shop — now called the Spanish Town Market — on Sunday celebrated 100 years of operation with live music, cold drinks and free food.
“It’s been a cool part of the neighborhood for a really long time,” said Blanche, 25, now co-owner of the shop with his wife and younger brother.
Blanche worked for several years at the building’s previous business, Capitol Grocery Store, 701 Spanish Town Road. But when he noticed the shop missing from a poster of iconic Baton Rouge landmarks at a nearby pizza parlor, he worried the store wasn’t getting enough historical credit.
“I came back and told my boss, ‘We need to get this place fixed up for the 100th birthday. That would really be a good thing for this business,’ ” he said.
The restoration plans eventually led Blanche and his then-fiancée and now wife, Jenna Blanche, to buy the shop in February 2013 with money he had saved to start a food-truck business.
Since then, they’ve brought in new coolers and replaced the floors and electrical wiring, along with a host of other renovations. And they plan to keep sprucing it up, Blanche said.
“We’ve spent every penny we have trying to get this place to where we want it to be,” he said. “It’s been a social hot spot for a century, and we want to treat it that way.”
Throughout Sunday, nearly 100 people mingled on the market’s patio as local bands played classics by Neil Young and The Beatles. Some sat at tables in front, beneath drooping palm trees, while others ducked inside the market to catch a moment of the Saints game.
“The thing that makes this place most special is the sense of community,” said George Caldwell, 26, pointing to the crowd around him. “These people, we all know each other.”
Caldwell works at a bar several blocks from the Spanish Town Market and orders delivery a few times a week, he said.
“It’s great,” he said. “They deliver the food on skateboards.”
Skylar Londidier, 30, has lived in Spanish Town “on and off” for the past 12 years. He frequents the market nearly every day and said the tight-knit environment is what keeps him coming back.
“There’s no way I can come into this store at any time without having to hug at least two people,” he said. “It’s like a second family.”
The market serves food seven days a week and features an oft-changing menu that includes seven-topping burgers, boudin balls and variety of po-boys. Partygoers swarmed when the store owners rolled out free burgers late Sunday afternoon.
For Blanche, the 100th anniversary celebration captured what first drew him to the shop and has ultimately brought him back to Spanish Town.
“This place is home to me,” Blanche said. “And it always will be.”