A First Look at the New Essex Street Market; City Seeks Two New Restaurants

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A year before the scheduled move of the Essex Street Market into a new home in the Essex Crossing project, city officials are going public with a few details about the new facility. The Economic Development Corp. (EDC) yesterday announced it is accepting applications for two new restaurants and 11 smaller vendors to be part of the expanded public market. We’re also getting our first look at renderings and floor plans.

All of the existing (28) vendors will be moving across the street to 115 Delancey St., on the first two levels of a building that will also include a 14-screen movie theater and rental apartments. The EDC is looking for two restaurant operators for spaces that each measure about 1100 square feet. According to a press release, the city seeks, “independent, locally-based restaurateurs or restaurant groups who are interested in using farm-to-table seasonal produce or other regional foods on their menus.” They will have their own entrances (on Delancey and Broome streets), built into the new façade of the market.”

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The existing vendors have already chosen their locations in the new facility. According to a floor plan, additional spaces are available ranging from 87 square feet to 534 square feet. More information and application materials are available here.

The new market is supposed to open in June of next year and the current market will remain operational up until that time. The ground floor covers 30,000 square feet (about twice the size of the current facility). There’s also a 6,000 square foot mezzanine. There will be a demonstration kitchen for catered events and public classes.  There will also be a “late night zone” for merchants who wish to stay open until 8 p.m. Right now, the whole facility shuts down at 7 p.m.

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In yesterday’s press release, Vendor Association Chair Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheesemongers, said, “I am thrilled about the move to a new space… The market is a Lower East Side institution, and in a city where the retail landscape is becoming ever more homogenized, it’s so exciting to see the expansion and continuation of this unique and diverse community of small businesses. It’s markets like Essex that make New York great!”

Lower East Side Partnership President Tim Laughlin added, “We are excited to partner with NYCEDC to ensure the market continues to thrive and grow supporting existing vendors and welcoming new ones in a state-of-the-art facility; this unique opportunity allows the market to continue supporting a diverse collection of small and independent merchants for many years to come.”

As we reported in April, the Vendor Association, the LES Partnership and the EDC recently came to terms on an agreement for operating the new market. While the EDC will continue to manage the facility, the vendors and the Partnership will take on more responsibilities in marketing and running the market on a day-to-day basis.

The new Essex Street Market is meant to complement a subterranean shopping pavilion known as the Market Line, a major feature of the Essex Crossing mixed-use development. The Market Line will begin directly below the Essex Street Market, eventually extending to the east in two buildings that will be constructed during phase 2 of the project.

(Photos) Essex Street Market Block Party 2017

Photos by Nina LoSchiavo, Lower East Side Partnership.

Photos by Nina LoSchiavo, Lower East Side Partnership.

This past Saturday, people were obviously in a dancing mood at the annual Essex Street Market Block Party. The event is a co-production of the the Essex Street Market Vendor Association, the LES Partnership and the NYC Economic Development Corp. In addition to the food vendors within the market, the block party also featured local restaurants (such as Cafe Katja), activities for the kids and entertainment. City Council member Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer joined Vendor Association President Anne Saxelby and Tim Laughlin of the LES Partnership at Saturday’s festivities.

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Agreement Reached For Operating New Essex Street Market at Essex Crossing

Essex Crossing rendering by Handel Architects.

Essex Crossing rendering by Handel Architects.

A little more than a year from now, in the summer of 2018, a newly expanded Essex Street Market is expected to open at 115 Delancey St. It is part of the big Essex Crossing project now under construction. Earlier this week it was announced that an issue looming over the new facility, the relationship between the Vendor Association and the city, has finally been resolved.

At Tuesday evening’s meeting of Community Board 3, Gigi Li, who chairs the Essex Crossing Task Force, said a preliminary agreement is now in place for operations at the new market. The tentative deal is the result of more than three years of talks involving the Economic Development Corp. (EDC), which oversees the market, the Vendor Association and the Lower East Side Partnership, which coordinates marketing efforts on behalf of the vendors.

In a report to CB3 members, Li said, “I believe that all of the asks (requests) that we had as guidelines… in the project were met.” She added that the “agreement will be further fleshed out to include staff and structure, funding, allocations, as well as all roles and responsibilities (of each partner).” The details of the agreement will not be revealed until July, when the city presents the plan at a meeting of CB3’s economic development committee.

Essex Street Market, April 2017.

Essex Street Market, April 2017.

The new home of the Essex Street Market is under construction on the southeast corner of Essex and Delancey streets.

The new home of the Essex Street Market is under construction on the southeast corner of Essex and Delancey streets.

During the past few years, Anne Saxelby head of the Vendor Association, has been a vocal critic of the way the city runs the market. Several merchants were forced to close their stalls due to dwindling foot traffic. The vendors complained of lackluster marketing to help boost business. Then the EDC brought the Partnership in to help with marketing and provided funding to the Vendor Association for a part-time coordinator. In briefing CB3 last summer, Saxelby was a lot more optimistic, saying improvements (such as bright new interior and exterior murals and a series of public events) had make a big difference. At the same time, she continued to call on the city to hand over operations of the new market to an outside not-for-profit organization.

While all parties have declined to discuss the terms of the agreement, a spokesperson for the EDC signaled yesterday that the city would continue to oversee the Essex Street Market, while the LES Partnership and the Vendor Association would take on larger roles.

LES Partnership President Tim Laughlin said in a statement, “We look forward to continuing a close partnership with NYCEDC, market vendors and other community stakeholders to ensure the new market facility remains accessible and provides and array of community benefits. We are finalizing the extension of agreements that expand the coordinated role that the Partnership and Essex Street Market Vendor Association have played in supporting the market and it’s diverse collection of vendors.”

In the past year, the EDC created a new position, Vice President-Executive Director of Markets, to oversee all of the city’s public market facilities. In September, David Hughes, the longtime manager of the Union Square Greenmarket, was hired in that role. His involvement means EDC is better equipped to deal with the intricacies of operating the historic Lower East Side facility at a time of unprecedented change.

The new Essex Street Market will be part of the larger Market Line, a 150,000 square foot retail pavilion at Essex Crossing. The Market Line will be run by Delancey Street Associates, the developers building the mixed-use project. Meanwhile, the Essex Street Market will be city-operated.

In keeping with an agreement struck with the city years ago, all of the vendors in the current market will move across the street to the new facility. They’ll pay the same rent at Essex Crossing that they’re paying at the time the move takes place. There are currently 25 merchants (with two new vendors opening soon). The 14,000 square foot facility will double in size when the new market debuts next year.

Spring at the Essex Street Market: New Vendors, New Programs

Photo: Essex Street Market Vendor Association.

Photo: Essex Street Market Vendor Association.

Over at the Essex Street Market, the spring season is bringing new vendors and new programs. Here’s an update on what’s happening.

Per the latest e-blast from the Vendor Association, Essex Olive Oil & Spice House will be debuting before April is over. Shoppers will be able pick up bulk spices, oils, olives, pickled vegetables and other gourmet delicacies. The shop will open later this month in a stall across from New Star Fish Market. We understand it’s the first of a few new merchants who will be added to the retail mix in the next several weeks/months.

Coming up on Saturday, the market will kick off spring with a pre-Easter celebration. Kids can decorate their own Easter bunny and fill eggs with treats from Economy Candy. The festivities take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the stall across from Luna Brothers Grocery.

Looking ahead, an annual block party will take place on Essex Street Sat., May 20.

In other Essex Street Market news, the Lower East Side Partnership has been awarded a $30,000 grant to help the vendors with marketing and programming. The funding comes from Avenue NYC, an initiative of the Department of Small Business Services.

Partnership President Tim Laughlin tells us the city agency is also assigning a Neighborhood 360° Fellow to work on projects at the Essex Street Market. The main focus of this new position will be engaging public housing residents. The vendors will be moving across Delancey Street next year to an expanded market as part of the big Essex Crossing project. Making sure the low- and middle-income residents who have shopped in the market for decades continue to do so is a high priority of the Neighborhood 360° initiative. A companion program, Fresh Bites, will continue to offer cooking demos aimed at preparing affordable and healthy meals using vegetarian ingredients.

In the final year of operations in the current facility, said Laughlin, the Partnership is stepping up its efforts to increase foot traffic at the market. That’s been a struggle for the past few years. The organization has been working with Small Business Services and the Economic Development Corp. (which oversees the market) to drive more customers to Essex Street.


Essex Street Market Debuts Historical Mural

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If you visited the Essex Street Market this past weekend, you probably noticed this new historical mural celebrating the legacy of the 77-year-old public facility.

The 20-foot display presents a timeline from 1900 through the opening of the market by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in 1940, up to the present day. It was a collaboration among the Lower East Side Partnership, the Essex Street Market Vendor Association and Turnstile Tours, which provided research for the project. It was made possible through a grant from Avenue NYC, a program of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. The mural was installed in partnership with the Economic Development Corp., which operates the market.

The timeline begins in 1900 with the establishment of the first open air pushcart market on Hester Street.  It references La Guardia’s vow in 1934 to “clear the street of pushcarts” by creating a network of indoor markets. The mural points out that there were 475 vendors spread across four buildings when the Essex Street Market, all of whom were paying $4.75 per week for their stalls.

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A huge transition is, of course, ahead for the public market. This is the last full year in the current facility before the vendors move into a new building on the south side of Delancey Street. It’s part of the mixed-use Essex Crossing project. The current building will eventually be torn down to make room for condos. The mural ends with a rendering of the new building and a caption that reminds shoppers that, until the move, “our beloved market will remain open for business.”

Anne Saxelby, head of the vendors’ association, said the mural gives shoppers a look at the past, present and future of the market. “In this time of transition for Essex Street Market, we think it’s more important than ever to highlight the market’s rich past and bright future!,” said Saxelby. Cindy VandenBosch of Tunstile Tours said the project offered a great opportunity to, “dig deeper into the history of the market and uncover and share little-known stories with the public… that had been buried in city and newspaper archives.” Her organization is offering a 25% discount for its weekly Essex Street Market tasting tours (use the discount code: LESWinter).

Tim Laughlin of the LES Partnership said the installation marks the completion of improvements at the market undertaken in the past year to boost foot traffic. “The enhancements,” he said, “are designed to ensure that the vendors and the market as a whole are well-positioned for the transition to the new facility in the years to come.”

A formal unveiling of the mural will be scheduled sometime soon.

Winter DayLife Festival at the Lowline Lab Happens Feb. 12

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Coming up on Sunday, Feb. 12, the vendors of the Essex Street Market will be participating in the second annual Winter DayLife Festival at The Lowline Lab.

A prototype of the underground park has been set up in a vacant building of the Essex Street Market since the fall of 2015. It will be closing in the next few weeks as developers of Essex Crossing prepare the building for demolition. So this will be one of your last chances to see the Lowline Lab in its current form.

Merchants taking part in the festival include Osaka Grub, Arancini Bros., Saxelby Cheesemongers, Ni Japanese Deli, Pain D’Avignon, Porto Rico Coffee, Rainbo’s Fish, Puebla Mexican, and Formaggio Essex. More vendors will be announced in the near future.

Winter DayLife will take place from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP.

Here’s another market-related event coming up next Wednesday, Feb. 1. Three women trailblazers from the food world will be taking part in a panel discussion. It’s part of the market’s evening “Talk & Taste” series. The discussion will be moderated by Caroline Shin of the web series Cooking With Granny. Panelists include DeDe Lahman, co-Owner of Clinton Street Baking Company; Claudia Wu, co-founder and creative director of Cherry Bombe magazine; and Shalini Singh, founder and instructor at Shalini’s Kitchen. The evening starts at 6:30 p.m. with bites from Clinton Street Baking Company and Saxelby Cheesemongers.  You can register here.


Christmas Trees at the Essex Street Market + Santa Visit Saturday, Dec. 3

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The Essex Street Market is going all out for Christmas this year.

Greg’s Trees, one of the city’s oldest Christmas tree vendors, set up alongside the market right after the Thanksgiving holiday. They’ll be on site until Christmas.

Also, Santa will be making a visit to the Essex Street Market this coming Saturday, Dec, 3, from 3-7 p.m. The community is welcome to help decorate the tree Saturday afternoon. You can make your own ornament and help string holiday lights. There will be hot chocolate for everyone.

Coming up on Saturday, Dec. 10, there’s a Holiday Pie & Cheese Social hosted by Saxelby Cheesemongers and Four & Twenty Blackbirds ($15/tickets here).  And on Saturday, Dec. 17, Juilliard double bassist Karl Kohut and Manhattan School of Music’s Karly Epp will be performing in the market from 3-5 p.m.

For more info about holiday events at the market, check out the Essex Street Market’s website. Information about Greg’s Trees can be found here.

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Adam and CiCi of Greg’s Trees. Photo courtesy of Essex Street Market.


“Cooking With Granny” Comes to Essex Street Market

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Later this month, the Essex Street Market is launching a live cooking program called “Fresh Bites.” The first edition will feature the popular web series Cooking with Granny. Here’s more from the online invitation:

On Saturday October 22nd, we’re partnering with Cooking With Granny, a web series that showcases the food and stories of New York City’s baddest multicultural cooks — our grandmothers! This live cooking, tasting, and talk-based event brings a fan-favorite episode of Cooking With Granny to life. Granny Lumen will be teaching us how to make her “ube halaya” — a traditional Filipino dessert made from mashed purple yams. Participants who attend this Fresh Bites cooking demo will taste a fresh batch of Granny Lumen’s purple yam pudding, see how it’s traditionally prepared, and engage in an intimate discussion about the role food plays in immigration.

If you’d like to attend, there are two times available, noon and 2 p.m. Te 90 minute sessions cost $15. Click here for details. Also have a look at the segment with Grandma Lumen below.

Longtime Essex Street Market Butcher Jeffrey Ruhalter Dies at 60

Jeffrey Ruhalter. February 26, 2011 at the Essex Street Market.

Jeffrey Ruhalter. February 26, 2011 at the Essex Street Market.

We received some sad news in the last day regarding former Essex Street Market butcher Jeffrey Ruhalter. Here’s a statement from his family:

Sylvia and Allen Ruhalter, their daughter Francine Levine, cousins, nieces, and nephews and friends mourn the loss of our beloved Jeffrey Richard Ruhalter on August 17, 2016. Jeffrey had the most generous and giving heart. He was the creative innovator of Jeffrey’s Meats, a unique store which brought food and art together. Jeffrey was not only an expert butcher and chef but a true friend to his customers. He fed anyone that needed help. He taught classes on butchery and cooking that inspired people and brought them joy. During the recession that began in 2008, he even fed steak dinners to over 200 people who were laid off from their jobs. Jeffrey was recently diagnosed with cancer, but he kept all of his pain to himself. Despite being ill, he worked until a few weeks ago and continued to be a legendary friend to so many. We will never forget you, Jeffrey. Lovingly, your family and friends.

Facing increased rent and other financial hardships, Ruhalter made a decision to close his Essex Street Market stall in 2011. He was the last original tenant in the market (Ruhalter’s grandfather established a shop there in 1940; his dad ran the business until the year 2000).

Over the years, he tried to cope with a changing neighborhood, walking a fine line between serving longtime customers and new people who just arrived in the community. During the tumultuous events leading up to the closure of his shop, Ruhalter wrote:

This is my world; a week ago a lady came to my shop, drunk, and I knew that she needed food.  I went to the Pain D’Avignon bread store in the market and wanted to buy bread for her, in which the bread company gave me some bread for free to help my cause. I came back and made her a sandwich to fill her belly.  Moments later the next customer spent 45 dollars on some of my prime dry aged steaks to feed her family for dinner.  I don’t decide who gets what. I respond to the community’s needs as they arise because, if it were not for the community, I wouldn’t be here.  I can say that the community feeds my soul as their butcher but in addition, is that the community fuels my existence.  What I know to be true is that we belong to each other and without the community, you, I don’t exist. Thank you for giving my family our life blood.

In 2010, the New York Times profiled Ruhalter in a story titled, “An Endangered Butcher Gets His Groove Back.”  The article documented his struggles running a small business during a brutal recession, but also captured Ruhalter’s quirky spirit:

He was so depressed, psychologically and fiscally, that he discontinued Day of the Rose, a random holiday when he handed out 20 dozen roses to women at the market. “All you had to do was breathe if you were a woman; 2 years old or 82 years old, you got a rose,” he said. “I couldn’t afford it anymore.”… Though Day of the Rose remains on hiatus, female customers still get special attention from Mr. Ruhalter, who wears his long brown hair in a ponytail and has two hoop earrings on his left ear. “Swashbuckling,” is how he describes his look. A longtime practice he has maintained, despite everything, is paper-wrapping a handful of thick-cut bacon for each new customer. If he knows it is your birthday, it might be a free steak. Last week, a young blonde stepped up to the counter and seems uncertain about buying a goose, saying she would check back. “Dear lady, when you make up your mind, call me; and if my wife answers (Ruhalter was not married), hang up right away and call back five minutes later,” he told her.

Ruhalter’s funeral was held today in New Jersey. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Tenement Museum in Jeffrey Ruhalter’s memory.


Ruhalter grilling lamb at an outdoor festival on Stanton Street.

Ruhalter grilling lamb at an outdoor festival on Stanton Street.


Top Hops To Go Now Open in the Essex Street Market

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We stopped by the Essex Street Market yesterday to check in with local beer guru Ted Kenny, who just opened a takeout shop.

Top Hops To Go is now open for business on the south end of the market, in the back, near Boubuki and Ni Japanese Deli. The stall is an offshoot of Kenny’s Top Hops, the popular bar and craft beer shop that’s been open since 2012 at 94 Orchard St.

You won’t be able to down a pint in the market. Instead, the new shop is designed as a takeaway outpost, offering growlers and a selection of 50 specialty beers in bottles and cans at any given time. There are four lines; draft beers will rotate every so often. Customers can also pick up snacks from local purveyors such as Roni Sue’s Chocolates, Rick’s Picks and Pop Karma.

Christina Cahill, Tops Hops’ marketing director, told us earlier in the week that the Lower East Side Partnership helped facilitate their expansion into the Essex Street Market. The Partnership, the NYC Economic Development Corp. (which operates the market) and the Vendor Association have been working hard to boost foot traffic. After several vendors closed in the past couple of years, there have been new signs of life in the historic market lately. Besides Top Hops, other new arrivals include Osaka Grub and Arancini Bros.

Top Hops to Go is open daily from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Essex Street Market on the Upswing; Saxelby Still Concerned About Future Management

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The Essex Street Market has a new look, thanks in part to a colorful mural recently created on the outside of the 1940-era building by artist Gera Lozano. But there’s also a lot happening inside the historic market, which has struggled in recent years to attract enough regular customers. In the past month, Anne Saxelby, head of the vendor association, updated members of Community Board 3 on efforts to revive the facility. We have details on that today, as well as a status report from the city’s Economic Development Corp. (EDC), which operates the market.

In the past couple of years, Saxelby has been a vocal critic of the city’s management of the facility. She raised concerns about lackluster marketing efforts, but also the lack of a clear management plan to operate the new, expanded Essex Street Market that will anchor the Essex Crossing development project.

But in her appearance before the community board, Saxelby said, “We’re happy to say that EDC did respond” to the concerns, outsourcing marketing to the Lower East Side Partnership, hiring a vendor coordinator and facilitating several high profile public events. “We have better attendance, better communication with all the vendors, more vendor buy-in and better participation in all of our events,” said Saxelby. She added, “In the last 90 days, we have accomplished more than I saw accomplished at the market in terms of marketing in promotion in the last 10 years.”

While explaining that “the EDC has been very responsive and cooperative,” Saxelby said she remains concerned about the future.  In the past, the vendor association has called on the city to hire a locally-based not-for-profit organization to take over management of the new market, which is scheduled to open in about two years. “We did and do want to see a road map towards alternative management,” she said. “We requested that of EDC and they still have not been able to commit to any kind of alternative management plan.”

Following the meeting, we contacted officials with the Economic Development Corp. Last fall, they indicated that a consultant, Ted Spitzer of Market Ventures, had been hired to make recommendations about the best management structure for the new market, but that no decisions had been made by the city. Anthony Hogrebe, senior vice president for public affairs, told us in the past week:

…we are currently working to finalize a detailed plan for the new market that takes into consideration the operational changes of the new facility. (The Essex Street Market) is an important City asset and we want to be thoughtful about our plans for the space, and to ensure that we have full input from the vendors and other key stakeholders before making final decisions. We expect to be able to share more specifics in the coming months.

EDC officials, along with Spitzer and members of the Essex Crossing development team, have met repeatedly with existing vendors about their spaces in the new facility. Saxelby said merchants are generally upbeat with that process. The new market will be about twice the size of the current facility, meaning there will be many new vendors. We asked whether the city had started the recruitment process.

Hobrebe explained, “We have so far been primarily focused on thoroughly engaging current vendors to plan for their new stalls and the move to the new facility.” But he added that a recruitment plan is being developed and that — with the help of Market Ventures — the city has “done a lot of groundwork to identify key elements to a successful market, including the right vendor mix.”

Finally, Hobrebe said city officials are encouraged by recent developments at the market, including the addition of new vendors such as Osaka Grub. It’s “definitely a good sign, he said, “that people are excited and investing in the future of our market.”

In her community board appearance, Saxelby pointed out that the EDC has been recruiting for a new position, a vice president and executive director of markets. According to the job listing, the new executive will be “responsible for policy development, growth strategies, and operational oversight of the City’s public retail markets including Essex Street Market, Arthur Avenue Market, Moore Street Market and La Marqueta.”  Saxelby said there’s concern about the city lumping the Essex Street Market in with other properties EDC manages. “While we understand that this is a portfolio that’s difficult for them, economically and otherwise, for them to manage, we just want to continue pushing them to be forward-looking,” she said.


Now Open: Osaka Grub in the Essex Street Market

The Osaka Grub crew - photo via Instagram.

The Osaka Grub crew – photo via Instagram.

There’s a new arrival at the Essex Street Market. Osaka Grub, a fast food Japanese concept, has opened its first “brick and mortar” location in a stall on the north end of the market right next to Peasant Stock.

Owners David Senn and Diana Tam debuted their okonomiyaki pancakes and sliders at the LIC Flea in April 2015. You have have seen them recently at the Hester Street Fair. The savory pancakes come in three varieties: classic shrimp & pork, a fully vegetarian miso mushroom and an okonomiyaki slider. You can check out the menu here.

Osaka Grub will be open Tuesday-Sunday in the Essex Street Market.

Essex Street Market Dresses Up Exterior With Mural by Gera Lozano

Image from ESMVA

Photo by Gera Lozano

The 76 year old Essex Street Market building received a bright and colorful face lift over the weekend.

The 200 sq. ft. mural on Essex is by Brooklyn-based artist Gera Lozano. A refreshing addition to the busy street landscape, the wall is a vibrant, multi-colored graphic mix of green leaves, a tropical tree and specialty goods and produce sprawled across the once blank brick canvas. Aside from the colossal public mural, Lozano also completed five canvases within the market that can be found over the entryways and above vendors’ stalls.

More images of the mural are featured below.


RIP Essex Street Market Vendor Ron Budinas

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Ronald Budinas. Photo: NYC EDC.

The Essex Street Market is a close-knit community. So it hit especially hard a few weeks ago when a longtime member of the market’s family, Ron Budinas, suffered a fatal heart attack. This past weekend at the Essex Street Market block party, there was a special tribute to Budinas, co-owner of Tra La La Juice Bar and Rainbo’s Fish.

Budinas and Ira Stolzenberg have been familiar faces on the Lower East Side for 40 years. It was in 1976 that they opened the fish market. Years later, the partners (in business as well as in life) added juices and homemade muffins. The heart attack happened in mid-April. Budinas, 66, was hospitalized for seven days before he died. If you’re a regular shopper at the market, you’ve probably seen the condolence cards covering the front of the stall on the market’s north end.

This past Saturday, Vendor Association President Anne Saxelby presented Stolzenberg with a certificate and announced that a new mural on the facade of thr 76-year-old building by artist Gera Lazono will be dedicated to Budinas. “It was a beautiful thing,” said Saxelby, “to hear Ron talk about the history of the market and about all the people who have been here — the wacky customers, the vendors, the whole community. His commitment and love of this market and his customers is truly special.”

On Saturday, there will be a memorial for Budinas at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, 46 West 16th St., at 10 a.m.

A couple of years ago, the Village Voice profiled Ira and Ron. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s early afternoon at the Essex Street Market  as Ira Stolzenberg and Ron Budinas — partners for the past 40-plus years — work their adjoining storefronts, juicing vegetables for Tra La La Juice Bar and slicing fresh fish for their fish stall, Rainbo’s… Native New Yorkers, they met while working at the same fish market in Queens in 1972 where Ira’s father, Heschy, was one of the original kosher fishmongers. They’ve been together ever since, first opening Rainbo’s in a market across Delancey Street in 1976. Run and leased by the state like Essex Street is today, the neighboring market “was a mess,” Ron says. “You would go throw out your trash and see certain type of services being given midday.” When they relocated into Essex in the early 1990s, the neighborhood was still dicey. Ron recalls customers coming in the front, buying a juice and a muffin and skedaddling out the back… With their Essex Street Market (moving to a new building in 2018), Budinas and Stolzenberg say they aren’t sure what’ll come next. After four decades, it’s difficult to imagine the market — or the neighborhood — without them.

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Ira Stolzenberg (thrird from left) accepts certificate from Anne Saxelby.

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Here’s the mural dedicated to Ron Budinas.




Photos: Celebrating 76 Years at the Essex Street Market

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The threat of rain didn’t keep many people away from the Essex Street Market this past Saturday. The turnout was strong for a block party staged outside the historic public market, which is celebrating its 76th birthday.

Many vendors were set up in booths along Essex Street and enjoyed brisk business. Locals got to sample the savory treats at Osaka Grub, the Japanese street food purveyor preparing to open a permanent stall inside the market. Other Lower East Side businesses, such as Cafe Katja and Pies & Thighs, joined in the festivities. New Street Seats (just installed last week) were well-used on Saturday.

The developers of Essex Crossing were also in the mix. The large project will include a new home for the Essex Street Market as the gateway for the Market Line, a three-block-long retail market on Delancey Street. The developers sponsored the block party and were on hand with renderings and a big blackboard. They were inviting passersby to write down thoughts about the past, present and future of the Lower East Side (see Instagram hashtag #HowYouLES).

There was a short speaking program on Saturday, featuring local elected officials and community leaders. U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez praised the market for its resiliency and for continuing to represent “the flavor and diversity of what has made the Lower East Side a destination.”

Hinting at its struggles during the past few years, City Council member Margaret Chin said, “the market has a wonderful history and we want everyone to know that the market is open for business.” Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li added, “we have been working very, very hard to make sure vendors in this market, who really represent the culture and flavor and diversity of the Lower East Side, will have a successful transition over to the new market.”

Members of the vendor association, city officials and leaders of the Lower East Side Partnership all stressed their efforts to work collaboratively to make the market stronger. In the past, merchants have expressed frustration with the city’s management of the facility. But — as we reported recently — improvements are underway to make the market more appealing to visitors. Bottom line: everyone’s playing nice.

Also on Saturday, there was a tribute to Ron Budinas, a longtime Essex Street Market vendor who recently passed away. He was co-owner of Tra La La Juice Bar, a fixture in the market since the 1970s. We’ll have a separate story about that tomorrow.

City Council member Margaret Chin, CB3 Chair Gigi Li, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, LEs Partnership President Tim Laughlin.

City Council member Margaret Chin, CB3 Chair Gigi Li, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, LES Partnership President Tim Laughlin.

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