Little market – Kirkwood restaurant’s new location

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt March 26, 2014
Petit Marche owner Marchet Sparks. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Petit Marche owner Marchet Sparks. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

It was 9 am, March 20, and Marchet Sparks had been running errands since 6 am.

The owner of Le Petit Marche sat down at the bar in her new location and snapped open a can of Monster Energy. She spoke with a reporter, but kept a corner of her eye trained on the kitchen and on the cash register. At times she excused herself from the interview, getting behind the register or giving an assist in the kitchen.

Sparks rolls with the punches. She said her adaptability has kept her around and carried her through a recession. Her business opened in 2008 at Kirkwood Station. She opened in a larger space at 1984 Hosea Williams Drive in February. Her restaurant started as a market. From there it’s been a steady evolution to the current business, where the food is front and center and the market is an ancillary.

“In order to stay alive, I had to make changes,” she said.

Change is a recurring theme in Sparks’ story. She moved to Atlanta in 2006 from Los Angeles to be closer to her parents, Isaac and Dorothy. They work in the restaurant too, known as Mom and Pop, and she learned how to cook “at my mom’s hip.”

“She’s the master chef,” Sparks said.

Sparks wasn’t a professional chef before opening a restaurant. She was a Realtor in Los Angeles for eight years, but she always wanted to try her hand at running her own market.

“I’m a builder,” she said. “I like to start from scratch and see what happens.”

She got her inspiration from touring Europe, specifically France. The decor inside her new location has a simplicity and elegance. House jazz music played through the speakers – she got up to change the music at one point because it didn’t capture the mood – and there was a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling in front of the coffee bar.

She said what few people know about her is how close she came to failure in the early years of running her business. Petit Marche opened three months before the economy tanked.

“I put my whole life savings into it,” she said. “I almost lost it all. The business was hanging by a thread.”

But being in the hospitality business means putting on a smile even when it hurts to do so. She didn’t want to let her customers know what was going on. Her food is what saved her.

“I rolled out breakfast a year after we opened. That stopped the bleeding,” Sparks said.

She said she didn’t know anything about breakfast. She made mistakes. She made grits on a hot plate. Sparks said she used her lack of knowledge to her advantage. She listened to people, her employees and her customers. She made changes. She got better.

“I remain open minded,” she said.

And that’s why her business has remained open, she said. Sparks provides 13 jobs now, and has a loyal clientele.

A reporter had the French Toast sandwich, a customer favorite, that’s a heap of butter-fried bread, eggs and bacon.

The french toast sandwich. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

The french toast sandwich. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Other customer favorites include the Sunday chicken and waffles special.

Customer Marcellus Lewis worked on his computer after finishing his usual, the oatmeal and sausage.

“The environment is a friendly, community-based kind of place,” he said. “Most people here know everybody by name, and the food is good.”

Damien Gordon, another regular, loves the food and likes that the restaurant keeps things tidy.

“They pass all their health inspections on the regular,” Gordon said.

Sparks also has a catering business and rents the space out after hours for parties. But she’ll meet you somewhere, too.

“We love to bring a little slice of Petit Marche wherever we go,” she said.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • viv

    Want to love this place. My first visit last week created more stress than it was worth. I came in with four friends. We all ordered together but paid separately. Our food came out at least 25 minutes apart. I had to go to the counter and ask why I was the one that ordered first (a BLT) but got my simple sandwich after everyone else was done. No apologies just a “it’s on its way out.” We also had to order at the counter and then find a place to sit. The tables don”t turn like they do at other places that do this, and it left us scrambling to find a seat as the first person in our group was getting their food, We had to take a table outside even though it was cold. The food was all very good, but the consumer experience needs a lot of work. Or maybe just avoid this place during peek hours.

    • I can tell you don’t live in Kirkwood, The sitting situation is MILES better than it used to be since now they try to find you a table while you’re in line instead of the table hunt you had to do in the other space. Also the community and relaxed “seat yourself” feel is part of the charm and works for the neighborhood. This restaurant isn’t Denny’s, try to go into it with a go with the flow attitude as opposed to “I must be served” and you will really experience what this restaurant is about and have a more enjoyable time.

      • Viv

        I live a block off hosea about 5 blocks from this place. I frequent the Pullman, and get my coffee at the bakery. Because I have to scramble for a table as my food is ready does not mean I don’t live in the hood. I didn’t say it wasn’t better than before. I just said it was my first experience at the new location. This is a really odd response to my post about MY experience. But thank you Shawn, for telling me about what works for MY neighborhood. And also thank you for pointing out that it was not Denny’s- which is a really odd example, since nearly every single food establishment in KW (MY neighborhood) is a “I must be served” (your words, not mine) place. You could have used any one of those as an example….but maybe you don’t know about those places, because you clearly don’t live in Kirkwood (see how I made that incredible, and likely false, sweeping generalization based on one thing you said.)

  • JB

    Food is AMAZING here. A soon to be favorite place in the hood. Agree with the counter ordering and delay. Would rather wait for a table in a queued line and then order with a server than order quickly and wait forever to find a seat.

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