New Essex Street Market Opens on the Lower East Side

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After a weekend in soft open mode, the new Essex Street Market makes its official debut this morning with a ribbon cutting ceremony and speech-making from city officials.

When we stopped by the market yesterday afternoon, vendors were stocking their display counters and greeting both longtime shoppers and new ones curious about the expanded facility. After 79 years, the Essex Street Market’s historic home on the north side of Delancey Street is closed for good. The new space, nearly three times as large, is a bright, modern showpiece for Essex Crossing, the residential/retail mega-project in the former Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.

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Most of the vendors who made the move have additional space in the new public market. Some have added new features, Over at Nordic Preserves, there’s now a counter for customers to be seated and a stove. Once their liquor license is approved, you’ll be able to sit down and enjoy a beer and the old Good World Bar burger. Top Hops is also waiting on a liquor permit before opening its spacious bar in a conspicuous spot on the market’s south end. Cafe D’Avignon is now baking bread on site and offering sandwiches and a selection of quiches, something that wasn’t possible in their tiny former space.

The three grocery stores – Viva Fruits & Vegetables, Luna Brothers and Essex Farm – are essentially unchanged. Their prices do not appear to have gone up in the fancy new space. There’s more room to display their products, however, making it easier for shoppers. Luis Meat Market and New Star Fish Market are side-by-side down one aisle, offering the same affordably priced meat and seafood.

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New vendors include Essex Shambles, a Harlem-based butcher specializing in locally-sourced beef. Right across the way, you’ll find Riverdel, a vegan cheese shop! Local favorites Sugar Sweet Sunshine and Chinatown Ice cream Factory (know as LES Ice Cream Factory in this corner of the neighborhood) are represented. Roni-Sue’s Chocolates is back in the market after a hiatus. Other new entries include Samesa (Middle Eastern), Don Ceviche (Peruvian dishes), Eat Gai (Thai) and Mille Nonne (Italian).

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If you enter the market from Delancey Street, you will notice a small historical display, featuring old photos and drawings of the first public markets on the Lower East Side. There’s a gift shop called “The Pushcart,” where tourists can pick up Essex Street Market t-shirt. Upstairs, there’s plenty of seating (a major upgrade from the past), a space for public events and a large demonstration kitchen. The community space features a 720 square foot mural by Aaron Meshon.

Still to come, two full service restaurants will be opening, including an Indian spot called Dhamaka. In the summer, the first phase of The Market Line will open right below the Essex Street Market, adding about 30 additional food vendors.

The new Essex Street Market is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.  You can learn more about all of the vendors here.

Saying Our Goodbyes to the Old Essex Street Market

Eric Suh of New Star Fish Market on the final day of the old Essex Street Market.

Eric Suh of New Star Fish Market on the final day of the old Essex Street Market.

It was a day of high emotions on the Lower East Side Sunday, as longtime customers and vendors said goodbye to the old Essex Street Market building at 120 Essex St. The 1940 structure once described as “unlovely” by the New York Times, is now shuttered and will soon be demolished in favor of an eight story apartment building as part of Essex Crossing. Most of the merchants will reopen for business by Friday in a gleaming new space across the street at 88 Essex St.

When we arrived at about 3 p.m., a tearful woman was walking out for the last time, lamenting the demise of a place that has meant so much to generations of Lower East Side families. She may or may not have known that the market is about to begin a new era in a larger. modernized facility across Delancey Street, or that most of the vendors will be making the move, and in some cases, expanding their operations. But for her, and many others, the Essex Street Market as she’s known it is now a relic of the past. The quirky, rough-around-the edges building is a big part of what made the local institution unique.

By Sunday, a few vendors had already closed their old stalls. The breakfast spot, Shopsin’s, served its last meal in the historic market a couple of weeks ago. Peasant Stock and Aminova’s Barbershop were shuttered in advance of the move. Several stalls, of course, have been empty for months, including those once occupied by Saxelby Cheesemongers, Santa Lucia Religious Articles, Boubouki, Osaka Grub and I.M. Pastry Studio. For various reasons, they chose to opt out before the transition.

One vendor who originally intended to cross Delancey Street, but then reconsidered, is Ira Stolzenberg of Tra La La Juice Bar and Rainbo’s Fish. A fixture in the market since 1976, he’s choosing to retire. In 2016, Stolzenberg’s business and life partner, Ron Budinas, passed away. Stolzenberg decided the time was right to close the business, the oldest operating stall in the market.

For most vendors Sunday, feelings were mixed. They have an emotional attachment to the old building, and some of them would have been happy to stay in place indefinitely. At the same time, though, they’re excited about the brand new facility, where foot traffic will hopefully be better. The current market has suffered a slump in recent years, with several merchants going out of business. Quite a few local residents came through yesterday for a last look, snapping camera phone photos, and chatting with vendors.

In 2011, local residents mounted a campaign to save the Essex Street Market building. City officials were determined, however, to knock down all four original market buildings to make way for the redevelopment of the former Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. While there was some sentiment on Community Board 3 to retain the historic structure, NYC bureaucrats argued that the existing building was too small and antiquated to serve the city’s needs in the future. They cynically pitted market preservationists against affordable housing activists, suggesting that keeping the market in place would mean sacrificing affordable apartments as part of the project that would later become Essex Crossing. Community board members decided to prioritize housing and the well-being of the vendors themselves over the old building (the developers paid the vendors’ buildout and moving costs).

The new expanded market will officially open a week from today, with an opening celebration scheduled for May 18. About 20 vendors will make the move, along with 15 new businesses.

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Saad Bourkadi of Essex Olive Oil & Spice.

Saad Bourkadi of Essex Olive Oil & Spice.

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An Era Ends Sunday as the Old Essex Street Market Building Closes For Good

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If you want to visit the old Essex Street Market one more time before the vendors cross Delancey Street, Sunday will be your last opportunity.

The 79-year-old building at 120 Essex St. will soon be demolished to make way for another shiny apartment building. The newly expanded market will soft open late next week before officially debuting at 88 Essex St., within the Essex Crossing complex, Monday, May 13.

It was, of course, a shortsighted move by the city’s Economic Development Corp., which operates the public market, to obliterate all four buildings that made up the original Essex Street Market. The demolition will wipe away the last vestiges of the Lower East Side’s pushcart past (the market was created in 1940 to get the vendors off the streets).

There is a silver lining. The vendors, many of whom have withered in recent years, are hoping the new space will attract bigger crowds. In an agreement brokered with the community board years ago, the Essex Crossing developers were required to pay their buildout and moving expenses.

15 new vendors will be part of the refashioned facility, including Essex Shambles (a butcher), Lower East Side Ice Cream Factory (a spinoff of Chinatown Ice Cream Factory), Samesa (a Middle Eastern takeout counter from the Susan Brothers), Sugar Sweet Sunshine (a new outpost of the popular LES bakery), Roni-Sue’s Chocolates (an alumnus of the old market) and Don Ceviche (a seafood-centric Peruvian stall).

More thoughts about the big move after the weekend.

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Lower East Side Voices: ‘Top Hops’ Takes Craft Beer Passion to New Essex Street Market

Today we wrap up our series on the Essex Street Market with a profile of Top Hops, the Lower East Side craft beer store that opened an outpost in the market three years ago. This project has been a collaboration with NYCity News Service. In late April or early May, the vendors will leave their historic home behind, making the transition to a brand new market in the Essex Crossing mega-project. So we thought it would be a good idea to check in with the merchants who will soon be making the move. This installment was produced by Cole Zerboni.

Lower East Side Voices: Mother-Son Team at Puebla Mexican Food Feel Right at Home in the Essex Street Market

The Essex Street Market has for many years been a refuge for startup businesses. As retail rents in stand-alone brick-and-mortar locations have become unaffordable, the historic market has been one of the few places where new ventures can take hold. It was a different story for Puebla Mexican Food. Irma Marmolejo and her son Jose opened a stall in the Essex Street Market after a rent hike forced them from their longtime storefront on 1st Avenue. In anticipation of the upcoming move of the public market across Delancey Street in the coming weeks, we have been featuring videos with some of the vendors. Today Trayonna Hendricks on NYCity News Service profiles this mother-son small business.

Lower East Side Voices: Owner of “Dominican Cravings” Feels Mixed Emotions About Essex Street Market Move

Like many people on the Lower East Side, Emmanuel Diaz has mixed feelings about the the looming move of the Essex Street Market from its historic home to the brand new Essex Crossing mega-development across Delancey Street. Diaz, owner of Dominican Cravings, will be joining about 20 existing vendors in making the transition shortly after Easter. In today’s installment of our series in collaboration with NYCity News Service, Diaz explains why he’s both excited and a little sad about the changes. This story was produced by Cristian Arroyo.

Lower East Side Voices: Essex Olive & Spice in the Essex Street Market

Big changes are, of course, coming very soon to the Essex Street Market. The vendors will be making the move from the market’s historic home at 120 Essex St. across Delancey Street to a newly expanded space in the Essex Crossing mega-development. To mark the occasion, we have been profiling some of the merchants. Our series continues today as reporter Shahar Golan of NYCity News Service introduces us to Saad Bourkadi pf Essex Olive and Spice.

Lower East Side Voices: A Taste of Japan in the Essex Street Market

Tucked in a corner of the Essex Street Market, you’ll find a little gem called Ni Japanese Delicacies. Fortunately it will live on in the new market, opening soon on the ground floor on the Essex Crossing mega-project across Delancey Street. In the latest installment of our series focused on the vendors, reporter Henna Choudhary of NY City News Service speaks with co-owner Saori Numata.

Lower East Side Voices: An Immigrant Success Story at the Essex Street Market

Today we’re continuing our series in partnership with NY City News Service on changing times at the Essex Street Market. In the very near future, the vendors will be crossing Delancey Street to a brand new facility in the Essex Crossing mega-project. Reporter Lakshmi Sivadas profiles Pan D’Avignon, the wholesale bakery with a retail outpost in the Lower East Side market.

Lower East Side Voices: Essex Street Market Changes Trigger Mixed Emotions

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This week we’re partnering with NY City News Service for a video series on the historic Essex Street Market, just weeks before the vendors move over to a shiny new home on the south side of Delancey Street. The existing market will be demolished to make way for a new apartment building as part of the Essex Crossing mega-project.

The reporters from CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism found a variety of opinions about the transition. On one hand, residents (and some vendors) are sad to see the old market go. Its demolition will wipe away some of the last vestiges of the historic Lower East Side and the only reminder of the neighborhood’s pushcart past. But many of the merchants are eagerly anticipating the new order. They’ve been suffering in recent years as foot traffic dwindled. As part of an agreement with the community, Essex Crossing developers are paying both their buildout and moving expenses.

In today’s installment, reporter Karishma Vanjani offers this take on old vs. new.

Lower East Side Voices: Peasant Stock Prepares For New Era at Essex Street Market

In the next few weeks, the Essex Street Market will be moving from its historic home at 120 Essex St. to a gleaming new space on the south side of Delancey Street. Over the years, The Lo-Down has covered the happenings of the market almost religiously. At this transitional time, we wanted a fresh perspective on the changes ahead, so we asked the team at NY City News Service to spend some time with the vendors. We’ll be showcasing their videos in the next several days. Today, reporter Orla McCaffrey profiles mother-daughter duo Christine  Juritsch and Emma Kestler of Peasant Stock

New “Essex Market” Signage Goes Up in Advance of Springtime Move

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Observant TLD reader Alan LeNoble was on the scene yesterday as signage was going up on the southeast corner of Essex and Delancey streets for the new Essex Street Market. The newly expanded market, which was supposed to open this past fall, is now scheduled to debut in the spring. Meanwhile, the vendors continue to operate across the street in their historic home at 120 Essex St.

 


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Osaka Grub Becomes Latest Casualty at Essex Street Market

The Osaka Grub crew - photo via Instagram, 2016.

The Osaka Grub crew – photo via Instagram, 2016.

Another casualty at the Essex Street Market. After months of struggling for survival, Osaka Grub announced last night that it would be closing.

In a letter posted on Facebook and Instagram, owners David Senn and Diana Tam said, “Running the restaurant has been tough. Lackluster sales and the insufficient foot traffic inside the market really has made it difficult for us to continue.” They added, “Sometimes dreams do not work out the way you want them to but we cherished the little stall we had built from scratch and all of the great memories we had.”

Just last month, Saxelby Cheesemongers decided to shutter its Essex Street stall after 12 years in the market. She also cited sparse foot traffic, in addition to other factors. Osaka Grub, a Japanese fast food concept, had only been in the market for two years.

The current vendors were supposed to have moved across Delancey Street this month to a brand new facility as part of Essex Crossing. That move has been delayed until next year. The developers paid for the buildout of the new stalls and will be paying the moving expenses for the Essex Street Market’s existing merchants.

 

Anne Saxelby is Closing Essex Market Stall, and Will Not Open in New Market

Anne Saxelby, Feb. 2014.

Anne Saxelby, Feb. 2014.

It’s a big blow for the Essex Street Market. On Saturday, a letter went up alongside Saxelby Cheesemongers’ stall announcing that the business, a stalwart in the historic public market, would be closing its Lower East Side location at the end of this month. What’s more — Anne Saxelby — chief advocate for the vendors over the past decade — will not be making the move to the new Essex Street Market next year. She’s keeping a retail space at the Chelsea Market and bolstering her successful wholesale business, which is based in Brooklyn.

Here’s what Saxelby wrote:

I want to reach out personally and let you know that due to certain business pressures and personal circumstances Saxelby Cheesemongers at the Essex Market will close on Sept. 30, 2018 and will not be opening in the new location.

I realize that this will come as a surprise, as I’ve personally devoted many years to this project, advocating for the market and its vendor community. However, over the past few years our sales in the market have declined precipitously. After much reflection it is clear to me that I would be unwise to proceed with opening this store as it could jeopardize the future of Saxelby Cheesemongers.

It is not easy to run a small business in New York (or anywhere for that matter!) And while I feel very attached to the Essex Market, I have to be pragmatic and put the sustainability of my business, our employees’ livelihood and the 50+ farms we support first.

I want to apologize for the timing of this message – so close to the market’s move and opening.  My partner and I have been exploring every alternative to this conclusion, but at this time we cannot commit to going forward with opening in the new market. I am very sad about this and do not take it lightly… for the past 12 years the market has been our flagship, our base and our community, and I am very proud of what we built at Essex. The community of vendors, friends, neighbors and customers is unlike any other in New York, and it has been amazing to be part of this community. The Essex Market was, is and will continue to be an amazing, historic, one-of-a-kind destination in New York City, and I wish the new market nothing but the greatest success.

Saxelby Cheesemongers will continue to operate in the Chelsea Market, and we will continue our wholesale operations from our base in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Thank you for your understanding. It has been an amazing run, and I will dearly miss being part of the Essex Market community.

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Saxelby opened her little shop in the Essex Street Market in 2006. In focusing on American farmstead cheese, she celebrated small, regional farms and won the respect of New York’s culinary community. Today, Saxelby supplies some of the best restaurants in the city.

In the market, she was first in a wave of merchants who brought new energy to Essex Street. She fought valiantly to save the market when the city vowed to tear in down as part of the Essex Crossing project (then referred to as SPURA). Having lost that battle,  Saxelby refocused her energies on protecting her fellow vendors. She was instrumental in the creation of the Essex Street Market Vendor Association. Saxelby was an outspoken critic of the Economic Development Corp., which operates the market, before a deal was struck between the vendors and the city a couple of years ago, and the two sides began working more closely to address concerns about both the existing facility and the new one.

The existing vendors will be moving over to the new market next spring (the move was recently pushed back from next month due to construction delays). The Essex Crossing developers are paying for the buildout of the new stalls, and covering moving expenses. While the vendors are paying the same price-per-square-foot in the new facility, most will incur more expenses because they chose to take larger spaces (Saxelby’s stall would have been 300 sf as opposed to 115 sf in the existing building).

Vendors, in general, have struggled in recent years, due to a drop in foot traffic. Several shops have closed, unable to hold out long enough for the move to the glitzy facility across the street.

New Essex Street Market Opening Delayed Until 2019

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The old Essex Street Market has served its purpose for 78 years. Turns out, the 1940 building on the northeast corner of Essex and Delancey streets will be put to use for at least a few weeks longer. While the city has long promised an opening for a brand new Essex Market on the south side of Delancey later this fall, construction delays have now pushed back the opening until next year.

The vendors were told about the delay on Friday, and are expected to attend a walkthrough of the new facility today. Just before the weekend, we received the official announcement from the city’s Economic Development Corp., which operates the market:

Due to delayed construction of the new Essex Market, relocation of existing vendors will occur in early 2019, following the holiday season. NYCEDC will continue to work closely with the vendors association to ensure a seamless moving process and address any additional concerns they may have.

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The public market is part of a 26-story residential/commercial building at 125 Delancey St. (the new market address is  88 Essex St.) The facility is being built by Delancey Street Associates, the development group responsible for the big Essex Crossing project. The existing vendors are to be joined by 14 new merchants. The new space is now expected to be available in early December, while the stalls being readied for the new operators won’t be finished until March. That’s because the city takes possession of the market once the existing vendor stalls are ready. A separate contractor is handling the buildout for the new businesses.

Business owners in the current market have no interest in moving during the holidays, their busiest time of year. For this reason, city officials tell us, they’re aiming for an “early 2019″ debut. Some existing merchants prefer to wait until all stalls are ready, and the market can make a big marketing splash. So if the city agrees to wait, it’s possible the new Essex Street Market won’t open for business until the spring of 2019.

In a statement, Delancey Street Associates explained, “This is an incredibly complicated project and we want to take the time to get it right so it’s ready for vendors to open for business without a hitch right when they move in.”

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Over the weekend, we spoke with a few vendors to gauge their reaction to the city’s announcement.  They had been told to expect a mid-October move, and some businesses have been reducing inventories and hiring new staff in anticipation of the upcoming switch to the new facility. One business, Pan d’Avignon, already removed a cappuccino machine, which it relies on for a big chunk of its daily sales.

Saad Bourkadi of Essex Olive Oil & Spice House, told us he’s disappointed but also understanding of the situation. Boukadi, one of the newer vendors, said business had been slow during the summer months, and he was looking forward to the boost the new market will hopefully provide. He definitely did not want to move during the holiday season and sees the value of opening the new market when it’s fully operational.

John Lavelle of Nordic Preserves is also disappointed in the delay. He and partners Annika Sundvik and Lu Ratunil will be opening an expanded stall with beer and wine, and hot foot items, in the new space. While they were looking forward to a fresh start across the street next month, Lavelle said he’s not a fan of a phased-in opening. He’d like to see all of the vendors open together.

Eric Suh of New Star Fish Market has a different point of view. While he agrees it would be impossible to make the move during the holidays, Suh said it would be far better for his family’s business to shift over to the new market in January. The fish market’s busiest time of the year is in the early spring (due to Lent/Good Friday, etc.), and Suh definitely wants to be up-and-running by that time. He also said it might make for a smoother, less chaotic transition if the existing vendors open first, followed by the new businesses a few weeks later.

At Formaggio Essex, general manager Andrew Clark said he’s perfectly happy to wait until the spring. Like New Star Fish, the specialty cheese/charcuterie store has a steady, loyal customer base. He understands that other merchants are anxious to make the move to a market that will, hopefully, attract more foot traffic. But the timing won’t make much difference to Formaggio Essex. Clark has an attachment to the historic, quirky market building. He’s feeling a bit wistful about leaving it behind, and is in no rush to cross Delancey Street.

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The vendors agreed on one thing. They appreciate the fact that city officials came to them with a forthright explanation of the situation. They said managers at the Economic Development Corp. seem willing to work with the merchants to make the best of the delay. The vendors are  expected to hold a vote after today’s tour, which will help determine whether the move takes place in January or during the spring.

The building that will house the new Essex Street Market also includes the first section of a shopping pavilion called the Market Line and a 14-screen Regal movie theater. The tower above the commercial complex includes about 200 rental apartments (half of the units were filled through a city-sponsored affordable housing lottery; leasing is now beginning for the market rate units).