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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A Festive Block Party and a Spring Makeover at the Essex Street Market

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There’s a big bash at the Essex Street Market this weekend in celebration of the historic public facility’s 76th birthday. On Saturday, May 21, vendors will be outside for a block party, complete with all sorts of food and entertainment (more on that in a moment).

But first, we wanted to tell you about some improvements now underway inside and outside the market building.

You may have noticed five new murals brightening up the interior space. They’re the work of Brooklyn-based artist Gera Lozano, who was recruited to create the colorful pieces by the Lower East Side Partnership. In the weeks ahead, she’ll also be installing a temporary exhibition spanning the outside of the Essex Street Market building.

The murals are part of a larger plan by the Partnership (formerly the Lower East Side BID), the Vendor Association and the city to spruce up the market, boost foot traffic and reinvigorate the facility. In a couple of years, of course, the merchants will be moving across the street to a new space in the Essex Crossing complex. They’re trying to counter a mistaken impression that the current facility has already closed in anticipation of the move.

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Yesterday, we spoke with LES Partnership President Tim Laughlin about the upcoming changes. Some of the improvements will be in place for next weekend’s block party. Others will reveal themselves during the summer.

Next week, outdoor seating (under the auspices of the city’s Street Seats Program) will be installed on Essex Street. Interior corridors are being redesigned with new counters and fresh paint. On the building’s north end, there’s a plan to create new seating and to add a display highlighting the Essex Street Market’s rich history. There will also be a revamped visitor center.

The enhancements are being made possible through funding from the NYC Economic Development Corp., Avenue NYC (a program of the city’s Department of Small Business Services) and the LES Partnership. There’s $86,000 budgeted for renovations, marketing and special events this year. “The idea,” said Laughlin is to create a strong foundation for a year of programming and promotions” at the market.

Now more about next Saturday’s block party. You’ll see many of your favorite vendors, but also new arrivals such as Osaka Grub (they’re expecting to open an ESM stall very soon). Plus other Lower East Side food purveyors will be joining in, including : Pies ‘n’ ThighsGrey Lady, Cafe Katja, The Fat Radish/The Leadbelly and Ice & Vice. And Turnstile Tours will be offering free market tours on the half hour. The block party takes place from noon-5 p.m. on Essex Street, just above Delancey Street. It’s free, but organizers are hoping you will RSVP.

The event is being sponsored by the Market Line, the three-block-long public market that’s being built as part of Essex Crossing. The new Essex Street Market will be the anchor of that large retail project.

Talk & Taste: Essex Street Maket Begins New Thursday Night Series

Essex Street Market, 1939.

Essex Street Market, 1939.

The Essex Street Market this month is beginning a new series of  free evening events focused on the changing food landscape of New York City.

The series, called Talk & Taste, will bring together industry experts and entrepreneurs for quarterly conversations, preceded by tastings from market vendors and complimentary sips (from Tiger Beer).

The first event takes place Thursday, April 14. It features Robert LaValva, founder of the New Amsterdam Market. He’ll be discussing the history of public markets in New York and why he feels they’re worthy of preservation (his Seaport market ended its run at the South Street Seaport in 2014).

As part of the series, they will be unveiling a series of historic, one-of-a-kind prints taken at the Essex Street Market in the late 1970s by photographer Marcia Halperin.

Here’s the schedule for future Talk & Taste Events:

June 16 — Immigration in the Kitchen: A Generation of Food Entrepreneurs, in partnership with MoFAD
September 15 — Framing Urban Renewal on the Lower East Side, in partnership with Tenement Museum
December 8 — How Bakeries Became NYC’s Biggest Food Manufacturers, in partnership with Turnstile Tours

The events are being hosted in partnership with with New Amsterdam Market, Museum of Food and Drink, Tenement Museum, and Turnstile Tours.

The talks are free but they’re limited to 50 people and you need to RSVP. More info here.

Upcoming Panel Discussions Focus on Legacy of Essex Street Market

essex Street Market, 1939.

Essex Street Market, 1939.

A big crowd turned out last month for a one-day food festival organized by the Essex Street Market, the Lowline Lab and the LES Partnership. Two more collaborations are coming up — focused on the past, present and future of the 75-year-old market.

On Sunday at noon, Adam Steinberg of the Tenement Museum will be moderating a discussion with vendors Ron Budinas and Ira Stolzenberg of Rainbo’s Fish/Tra La La Juice Bar and Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheesemongers. You’ll be able to sample cheeses and other lite bites during the talk.

And then on Sunday, March 20 at noon, there will be a panel discussion on the “importance of preserving the rich history of markets in New York City.” It will be moderated by the Bowery Boys and include Dan Barasch of the Lowline and Rohan Mehra of the Prusik Group as well as vendors Anne Saxelby of and Giulia Della Gatta of Arancini Bros. The Prusik Group is handling commercial leasing for the big Essex Crossing development, which will include a newly expanded Essex Street Market and a larger retail complex called the Market Line.

The events take place at the Lowline Lab, 140 Essex St. More info here.

Roni-Sue’s Chocolates Stall in the Essex Street Market is Closing

Roni-Sue Chocolates' stall at the Essex Street Market.

Roni-Sue Chocolates’ stall at the Essex Street Market.

Rhonda Kave, owner of Roni-Sue’s Chocolates, tells us she’s decided to shut down her stall in the Essex Street Market.

The small business opened in the public market back in 2007. Kave made the decision to downsize in the facility a couple of years ago, while opening a full-scale retail shop and production facility on Forsyth Street. Like many Essex Street Market vendors, Roni-Sue’s Chocolates has struggled during the past few years. Foot traffic took a tumble after the city announced a new market would be opening in 2018 as part of the big Essex Crossing project. A few months ago, Kave reconfigured the stall, offering products from other small businesses. In the end, she said, “We just couldn’t make it profitable.” The stall has been idled since right after Valentine’s Day. Kave informed the Economic Development Corp., which manages the market, of her decision on Friday.

In the past year-and-a-half, there has been a string of closures at the market. New vendors have been opening in their place, including Osaka Grub, which will debut next month.

You can still visit Roni-Sue’s Chocolates at 148 Forsyth St. The shop is open 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

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Big Crowd Turns Out For Essex Street Market/Lowline Festival


Did you notice the long lines yesterday waiting to get inside the Lowline Lab? The Winter DayLife Festival, featuring food vendors from the Essex Street Market — inside the temporary laboratory at 140 Essex St. — drew thousands. In fact, we’re told, more than 8500 people walked through the doors.

The line snaked around Rivington Street throughout much of the day. The Lowline Lab, a prototype of the proposed park below Delancey Street, is open to the public every weekend. On Sunday, the Lowline crew teamed up with the Essex Street Market Vendor Association and the Lower East Side Partnership for the big event.  Merchants taking part included Saxelby Cheesemongers, Osaka Grub, Davidovich Bakery, Puebla Mexican Food, Arancini Bros, Ni Japanese Deli, Porto Rico Importing Company, Peasant Stock, Formaggio Essex and Pain D’Avignon.

The happening was, of course, good news for all involved, but especially for the Essex Street Market. As you may know, the vendors have experienced a drop in foot traffic during the past couple of years. The collaboration is part of a larger marketing campaign to lure people back to the historic public facility.

As a reminder, the Essex Street Market is open every day at 120 Essex St. Read more about all of the vendors here.

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Essex Street Market/DayLife Festival: Feb. 21 at the Lowline Lab

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Coming up Sunday, Feb. 21, the Essex Street Market is bringing a one-day pop-up event to the Lowline Lab.

As you’ve probably noticed, the lab is operating from 140 Essex St., formerly part of the public market. It’s a prototype of the full-scale Lowline underground park that’s been proposed in an abandoned trolley erminal below Delancey Street. The Winter DayLife Festival will feature many of your favorite vendors, including Saxelby Cheesemongers, Osaka Grub (a new merchant), Davidovich Bakery, Puebla Mexican Food and Arancini Bros. The merchants are coordinating the event with the Lower East Side Partnership (LES BID).

It will take place from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

We also wanted to mention that the vendors have launched a new newsletter. This month, it includes info about a Valentine’s Day Instagram contest, details about new vendors and profiles of some of your favorite Essex Street Market small businesses.  Here’s a link if you’d like to subscribe.

Now Open: Arancini Bros. Rice Balls in the Essex Street Market

Photo from Arancini Brothers website.

Photo from Arancini Brothers Instagram feed.

There’s some good news to pass along about the Essex Street Market today. A new vendor, Arancini Bros., is open for business.

The deep fried risotto balls made their debut at the Hester Street Fair a few years ago. A permanent shop relocated from Bushwick. The stall is located right next to Puebla Mexican Food, which made the move to the Essex Street Market last fall. The rice balls are available with a variety of fillings, including ragu, mushroom taleggio and basil pesto (among other rotating options). The new menu also includes salads and vegetable sides.

Several market vendors closed down last year, saying that foot traffic had fallen off significantly. Those stalls are slowly filling up. Today, the owners of Orchard Street’s Top Hops told us they’re still planning on opening a takeaway local beer shop. They’re aiming for an opening next month, once a liquor permit comes through.


Instagram the Essex Street Market: Win a Holiday Gift Crate

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Here’s one more reason to shop at the historic Essex Street Market. They’re running an Instagram contest (Miracle at Essex Market) with a great grand prize: a holiday crate stuffed with goodies from each vendor. Just share a photo from the market and add the tag #essexstreetmarket. You’ll be entered to win. The winner will be announced December 18.

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“Top Hops To Go” is Coming to the Essex Street Market

Full LES Board Backs Change at Essex Street Market; No Decisions From the City Yet

Community Board Panel Backs Plan For New Management at Essex Street Market (Updated 3 p.m.)

Anne Saxelby: City Has Not Lived Up to Its Promises at Essex Street Market

Luca & Bosco is Closing Essex Street Market Stall

Puebla Mexican Food Now Open in the Essex Street Market