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Matthews

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/01/12/44/13wrNh.Em.138.jpeg|237
    HO - Courtesy of Pauline Wood
    There are more than 40 vendors at the Matthews Community Farmers' Market each week, offering farm-fresh produce, meats, poultry, flowers, handmade crafts and more. File photo
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/01/12/44/10CYrn.Em.138.jpeg|223
    Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
    Performers in the 12-14 age group rehearse a scene from the musical 'Matilda" at the Matthews Playhouse Monday June 10,2013 in Matthews. Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

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    Matthews Alive Festival (corner of John and Trade streets in historic downtown) : This Labor Day weekend event features games, rides, crafts and live music. And you can feel good about attending because the proceeds are used to benefit Matthews-area nonprofits. www.matthewsalive.org.

    Matthews Community Farmers’ Market (on North Trade Street in historic downtown) : Open until noon on Saturday mornings, rain or shine, year-round. A couple of tips: The market is busiest between 8 and 10 a.m., so come early for the best selection. Also, bring small bills, because some farmers don’t take plastic and don’t carry lots of change. www.matthewsfarmersmarket.com.

    Tropical Bakery and Café (11000 E. Monroe Road) : Try the coxinhas, tasty croquettes filled with minced chicken, and the papaya guava shake. 704-815-4694; tropicalbakery.info.



Ask folks why they moved to Matthews and you’ll hear about excellent schools, tight communities and neighborhoods where developers had sense enough not to cut down all the trees.

Ask them why they decided to stay and the answers become less predictable.

Here are some of the things that make me grateful to live in this fast-growing town southeast of Charlotte:

•  A focus on local food: On Saturday mornings, in the historic downtown area, you’ll find one of the region’s finest farmer’s markets.

And everything you’ll find at the Matthews Community Farmers Market – from the blackberries and herbs to the goat cheese and peppery peanut brittle – is grown, raised or made within 50 miles of Matthews.

The entertainment value is reason enough to come. You’ll find wood carvers, musicians and cooking demonstrations here, along with edible squash blossoms, Turkish pastries and homemade sausage.

Another Matthews treasure is Farmer Grier’s family. For decades, James Grier operated a wonderful farm stand on Sardis Road. Grier opened the stand after retiring in 1993, and worked long hours on his 10-acre farm as a way to recover from a heart attack.

The stand became known for its figs and sweet corn, and for an honor system that lets customers drop their money in a bucket. Grier was warm with children and generous with advice about growing crops. Sadly, he died in June at age 81.

But we can remain thankful for this: The stand is still being run by his wife, daughter and son-in-law.

•  An increasingly international cuisine scene: One of our favorite ethnic restaurants is PePeRo, a Korean restaurant and market located in a nondescript building on Monroe Road.

For those seeking good Korean food, this is the real deal. If you can find the restaurant – it’s a bit hidden inside the market – you’ll also find generous, spicy portions at a reasonable price.

I love the dubu kimchi and the bi bim bob, a rice dish with sauteed vegetables and a fried egg. In the market, you’ll find everything from crispy fried seaweed to Korean pancake mix.

The Tropical Bakery and Café, just one-tenth of a mile to the south on Monroe Road, offers terrific Brazilian food. Next door is Supermercado Brasileiro, the Brazilian market where you can buy a mix for making Pão de Queijo, a delicious cheese bread.

•  Terrific mom and pop shops: When I visit Renfrow Hardware in downtown Matthews, it always feels like the sort of place where Thomas Edison would have done much of his shopping.

It sells every bolt, bracket and wrench imaginable, along with ladybugs, live chicks and Blenheim ginger ale, an old-fashioned drink that packs a spicy punch.

Over a century old, the store keeps lots of reminders of its history – original pine floors, antique scales, a vintage Pepsi Cola cooler and a Flexible Flyer sled that looks as though it rode out the Woodrow Wilson years.

For many locals, Renfrow is a first stop when it comes to advice on home repairs. There’s good reason for that: The store’s employees know their stuff.

While you’re on Trade Street, you can take care of many of your holiday needs at the Matthews Holiday Haus – a place that keeps the Christmas spirit alive year round. Whether the upcoming holiday is Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving, they have gifts and decorations for the occasion.

One of the region’s coolest comic book shops – A. Pennyworth’s – is also nearby. Check out their collection of toys and statues as well.

Ames has been a reporter for the Observer since 1993.
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