Essex Street Market Celebrates 75 Years With a Block Party and a Message: “We Are Open!”
A month-long celebration of the Essex Street Market ended Saturday with a lively block party outside the historic WPA-era building that has been home to a diverse collection of vendors for generations. In three years, they’ll be making the move across Delancey Street to a brand new expanded facility, a centerpiece of the big Essex Crossing project. But this past weekend, the merchants and city officials drilled home a key message: the market is open for business now and will be until the move takes place.
On hand for Saturday’s festivities were Kyle Kimball, outgoing head of the city’s Economic Development Corp. (EDC), local elected officials and representatives of the LES Business Improvement District, which coordinated this month’s celebratory events. Earlier this year, vendors were sharply critical of the EDC, the facility’s operator, saying that little was being done to counter a false perception that the old market is already closed. Since that time, the agency has been slowly moving toward a plan to give both the vendors and the local BID more responsibility for managing and marketing the market.
There was good turnout for the block party, which was set up right in front of the market on Essex Street between Delancey and Rivington streets. Some, but not all, vendors took part in the outdoor event, along with the chefs from local restaurants Cafe Katja, Spur Tree and An Choi. A birthday cake was supplied by the Tra La La Bakery, a longtime vendor.
In brief remarks, City Council member Margaret Chin said, “Today we are celebrating not just a milestone. We are celebrating the future of the Essex Street Market. Soon they will move to a new space but they are alive and well right now. We invite everyone to come down here and continue to support the hard-working vendors, so that they can continue to grow and thrive and be able to expand into the new space when it is ready for them.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer made note of meetings that were held earlier this year to address the vendors’ concerns. As The Lo-Down first reported in February, three businesses — Brooklyn Taco, Heritage Meats and Essex Flowers — closed their stalls due to dwindling foot traffic. After an initial meeting, Brewer said, the EDC, “Put their heart and soul into working with the vendors. What it says is that people who work in city government really care about our neighborhoods.” She added, “This is a neighborhood that cares about our vendors, our mom-and-pop businesses, and if there’s one example of supporting the mom-and-pops it’s here at Essex Street.”
Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheesemongers and head of the vendors association, also spoke. “We are just so pleased and so proud of this group of small businesses,” she said, “and we really want to emphasize for the community… that we are open for business. We’re going to be moving into a tremendous new facility in three years and we need the community’s support now and through the next couple of years to get us through this transition and make the new market a world class public market.”
Click here for more information about the Essex Street Market.