Blazer’s Vision Comes to Life at DeKalb Farmer’s Market

Blazer’s Vision Comes to Life at DeKalb Farmer’s Market

Founder Robert Blazer has grown the business from its humble beginnings on Medlock Road to the shopping destination it is today.

The De;kalb Farmer's Market is truly international, employing over 750 people from 40 countries.
The De;kalb Farmer's Market is truly international, employing over 750 people from 40 countries.

To loyal customers, the DeKalb Farmer’s Market is more than an exquisite place to shop; it’s a solid generational institution. Yet few people really know the story of how the DFM grew to become the beloved marketplace it is today.

In 1977, the store’s first location opened on Medlock Road in Decatur. According to owner Robert Blazer, “the beginning years were tough.” In 1979, an ice storm damaged the Medlock Road building, but Blazer didn’t let bad luck stop him. He ignored the naysayers, and with the support of his customers, rebuilt the facility in just eight weeks.

The customers kept flocking, until Blazer had to relocate to the current location at 3000 E. Ponce de Leon Avenue. He used his expertise as a mechanical engineer to help design and construct the building he operates out of now.

One of Blazer’s biggest goals for his company was to figure out how to get his employees to work well together in a meaningful, engaging way. He found answers once he started to recognize certain dynamics both in his family and in families all around the world.

Robert Blazer opened the first location of the DeKalb Farmer’s Market on Medlock Road in 1977.

“For the last 33 years, I’ve recognized patterns that allow us to appreciate what we naturally have to contribute to each other,” Blazer says. “My own family worked well together because all three generations — the child, parent and grandparent — were there to support each other. When I go to work, I carry the blessings of the generations that came before me.”

Loyal customers appreciate that DFM employees work closely like a strong family unit; when a customer has a problem, the entire team works together to solve the problem.

Building critical business relationships has been pivotal to DFM’s growth. The seemingly endless supply of exotic fruits and vegetables, the fragrant flowers, the fresh bakery products and pastries made from scratch, the aromatic coffees and nuts roasted daily, the quality meats and fresh seafood and the best natural ingredients from all over the world are all possible because of the connections Blazer has made.

“This store could never have existed if it were not for the relationships I have built with key people over the years,” Blazer says. The store’s mission is summed up in “Our Stand,” which forms the framework that the organization is built on.

“In part, the statement says that within the store, life works free of scarcity and suffering. We cannot escape our fundamental relationships with food and each other. We strive to have balance in our relationships with each other, which helps us maximize positive experiences with the customers,” states Blazer.

Customers love that they can buy wholesome, organic meals at reasonable prices. And they appreciate Blazer’s commitment to his values.

“The market has no debt,” says Blazer. This allows his team the freedom to be creative with new ideas that will benefit customers. The market also doesn’t advertise its products. Blazer believes that “if a business is not good, the team will do what’s necessary to make it right.”

His wife Barbara and son Daniel help him run the market, along with other business activities. With her love of people and food, Barbara has been an integral part of the market’s development for over 35 years. Daniel is focused on international shipping business and produce operations and speaks Spanish fluently.

“This store is the result of my prayer. This store is a family unit that extends not only to the employees but to the customers too. It’s a harmonious unit. It’s a gift to the community for this generation and future generations,” Blazer says.

The store currently employs over 750 people from 40 countries. DFM staff speak over 50 different languages and dialects.

Even though Blazer’s difficult years have passed, he is still grateful for all the progress the business has made. In 2014, he wrote a book, “Our World Market: The Generational Distinction, Our Connection to Life.” (A digital copy of the entire book is available on the DFM’s website, with videos and testimonies explaining certain aspects of the book.) In it, Blazer details his business philosophy, the store’s mission statement and his gratitude to his friends, customers, employees and associates.

Blazer also reflects on 1966, the year he first visited Jerusalem. He saw an agora coin on the ground and did not pick it up. An Israeli girl urged him to pick it up, warning him that if he didn’t, he would be more worthless than the amount of the coin. Since that day, Blazer always picks up pennies for good luck.

“I always pick up a penny, no matter what the condition,” he says. “When they appear, they are a symbol to me that I am on the right track.”

Judging by the smiles, quality products and reasonable prices at the DFM, Blazer is indeed on the right track.

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