The holiday season will be in full swing at the Essex Street Market on Sunday. Santa will be visiting from 2-4 p.m. They’ll be decorating the Christmas tree, and you’re invited to make homemade ornaments with the Essex Street Market crew. There will also be free hot chocolate and candy canes.
Recently, the vendors at the historic Lower East Side market teamed up with Mercato, a company that helps independent businesses establish an online marketplace. After placing an order this past Thursday, we opted for Friday delivery (same day delivery was available; it just wasn’t convenient for us). Our order, which included items from five separate merchants, arrived on time, with nothing missing, nothing damaged.
Here’s what we got: Some potatoes from Luna Brothers grocery, a piece of smoked and peppered wild bluefish from Nordic Preserves, a jar of garlic powder from Essex Olive & Spice House, strawberry jam from Formaggio Essex and some butter from Saxelby Cheesemongers. The bottom line: This service seems like a great option for anyone who wants to support the local shops inside the Essex Street Market, rather than patronizing big corporate delivery operators. There are more than 1400 items available, including many unique products you won’t find elsewhere.
Not all of the stores are participating. Here’s a look at the Essex Street Market vendors offering online delivery:
Luna Brothers Fruit Plaza
Essex Olive Oil & Spice House
Ni Japanese Deli
Tra La La Juice Bar
Puebla Mexican Food
I.M. Pastry Studio
Mercato does normally charge a delivery fee, but at the moment there’s a free delivery promotion. When completing your order, you just type in, “ESSEXMKTFREE.” You might have seen the Mercato team in the market this past weekend passing out postcards to build support for the new program.
Lauren Margolis, vendor services coordinator, told us the merchants themselves requested a delivery service. The idea was championed by Saad Bourkadi, owner of Essex Olive & Spice House, which has only been operating in the market for about six months. Margolis said it was important to everyone that at least one of three Essex Street Market groceries signed up, as well as one of two fish markets. She’s hopeful more vendors will sign on in the future. Amy Yu, a Neighborhood 360 fellow, researched delivery options and helped the vendors settle on Mercato as the best option.
On Sunday, we stopped by the market to talk with Saad Bourkadi. He’s taken a leadership role in coordinating the Mercato deliveries. When customers place online orders, the vendors bring items to his counter to be assembled for the delivery service. “It’s really a wonderful thing,” said Bourkadi. “I’m in contact with every vendor. It was my way of showing some good will and being part of this community.”
Delivery is available throughout Manhattan, not just on the Lower East Side. You can schedule your delivery between the hours of 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. The market will, of course, be moving across Delancey Street to a new home as part of the Essex Crossing project next fall. Margolis said the delivery service is meant, at least in part, to give the merchants a boost during their last months in the existing facility.
Click here to check out the Essex Street Market’s online store.
The artist Ai Weiwei will be making a big impression in New York during the next-week when his enormous citywide art exhibition, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, makes its debut. On the Lower East Side, as in some other neighborhoods, we’re being treated to a preview.
You may have noticed these flagpole mounted banners on the outside of the Essex Street Market. They just went up today. In collaboration with the Public Art Fund, Ai Weiwei is launching 300 artworks across he city. There are three large-scale sculptures — in Central Park, Washington Square Park and in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. The project is meant to raise awareness of the global refugee crisis.
Here’s more about the Essex Street Market portion of the exhibition:
At the New York City Economic Development Corporation-managed Essex Street Market, which opened in the 1940s and has long been at the heart of the community, a narrative scene of banners spanning the market’s façade’s flagpoles will depict the perilous journeys of refugees, driven by threats to their survival and also by hope. These site-specific works will draw attention upward to the architecture of these lower lying buildings on the vibrant Lower East Side, a neighborhood that has been home to many immigrant groups since the 19th century.
Other Lower East Side locations include: 189 Chrystie St. (“a sign factory in the 1920s that is now home to” The Box nightclub), 248 Bowery (“a historic building dating back to pre-1830), Cooper Union and 48 7th St. (the street where Ai lived in the 1980s).
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Coming up at the Essex Street Market, there’s a special cooking demonstration from chef Yadira Garcia.
She’s known as the Happy Healthy Latina, and has carved out a niche in the food world by offering an all-natural spin on the traditional dishes from her Dominican ancestry. The event is timed to coincide with National Hispanic Heritage Month.
More from the invite:
Experience the extra “zing” packed into chef Yadira’s cooking with her homemade sofrito, the heart of so many Dominican and Puerto Rican foods. Yadira’s aromatic mix of herbs and spices adds a punch — and healing element — to any dish, including everyone’s favorite arroz con habichuelas (the true meaning of comfort food!). You’ll taste this combo, plus chef Yadira’s naturally-made adobo — a surefire way to make a quick and affordable meal taste like it’s been simmering all day.
The event takes place Tuesday, Oct. 10, 6:30 p.m.It costs $15. You can register here.
When the first phase of Essex Crossing opens next year, nearly everything about the large development project will, of course, be brand new. One exception is the 77-year-old Essex Street Market, which is moving to an expanded space on the south side of Delancey Street. Whether the beloved public facility feels connected to its Lower East Side roots will help determine whether the larger residential and commercial development is embraced by the local community.
At a recent meeting of Community Board 3, city officials began to lay out a vision for the new market, which is expected to open at 115 Delancey St. in September of 2018. The presentation was led by David Hughes, vice president and executive director of markets for the city’s Economic Development Corp. (EDC)
As The Lo-Down first reported in April, the EDC, along with the Essex Street Market Vendor Association and the Lower East Side Partnership struck a deal for operating the new facility after years of negotiations. During the community board meeting, Hughes outlined what he called, “a kind of collaborative, hybridized management structure that I think really addresses the needs of this market.”
The city will continue to own and run the facility, while both the vendor association and the Partnership will take on expanded responsibilities for marketing, community relations and programming. The EDC is providing the LES Partnership with funding for a full-time manager to oversee market events and outreach in the neighborhood. The EDC is also extending an existing contract for a part-time staffer working directly with the vendors on special programs and social media. Hughes said the city will bring on an outside contractor to handle maintenance at the new market. The final piece of the puzzle is a community advisory committee, which will offer local feedback to the management team.
Essex Street Market, April 2017.
All 28 vendors will be making the move from the current building at 120 Essex St. “They have had their new stalls designed according to their specs,” said Hughes. Delancey Street Associates, the Essex Crossing development consortium, is paying to build the new facility and is covering the vendors’ moving costs.
As previously reported, there will be two stand-alone restaurants in the Essex Street Market. The city is accepting proposals for those spaces. The EDC is also seeking to add 11 new small-format vendors, and an outside consultant, Robert LaValva, has been hired to help with recruitment. LaValva, the founder of the New Amsterdam Market, is a well-known figure in the New York City food world and a passionate advocate for the city’s public markets, past and present.
“There are things currently missing from Essex Street Market’s lineup,” said Hughes. “Wine, a good sandwich shop, perhaps, flowers, pickles. There are things that we have to actually go after and find and fill those vacancies.” Another goal, he explained, is to recruit local small businesses to join the market, as well as small start-ups.
New Essex Street Market under construction.
The new market covers 37,000 square feet, as opposed to 10,000 square feet in the current 1940s-era building. “There’s a lot more potential and opportunity for programming and events in this new space,” said Hughes. On the mezzanine, there will be a demonstration kitchen and flexible public gathering space. The mezzanine will be used for a wide range of programs, including cooking classes, workshops, talks, etc. Many events will be free, while other ticketed programs will help generate revenue for the market. The 6,000 square foot mezzanine will be available for rent by outside groups.
The city has hired WXY Studio, a design and planning firm, to help reposition the new Essex Street Market. As Hughes put it, “We have an opportunity now to rebrand, to think about who we are.” One developing idea is to use old photos and iconic signage from the historic market to draw a link between the past and present. While Hughes said the market is and always will be geared for the local community, he added, “We’re leveraging tourism connections. We’re thinking above and beyond the local community. We need to bring in other people. We want this market to be a draw. We want it to be like Reading Terminal Market (Philadelphia). You want it to be a destination.”
Rendering: Early idea for new Essex Street Market signage.
After several Essex Street Market businesses shuttered in 2015, vendors were sharply critical of EDC management, and called on the city to hand over daily operations to an outside not-for-profit organization. That didn’t happen, but the EDC did agree to delegate some responsibilities to the Partnership and the Vendor Association. The community board also stepped in, calling on the city to address to vendors’ concerns about the new facility. At last week’s meeting, Partnership President Tim Laughlin said the city clearly rose to the challenge.
“I think what the community board and the vendor association asked for happened,” he said. “Number one, get someone who’s experienced and gets markets in charge of the portfolio (David Hughes, former head of the Union Square Greenmarket was hired). Make sure the vendors are moving over to a new state-of-the-art facility with no problems. Make sure we have a long-term road map (for operating the market).” Laughlin argued, “EDC has gone above and beyond what the community board requests were and what our requests were, and I think they deserve a lot of credit. We’re excited to open a facility that is truly going to be a one-of-a-kind community asset.”
In an interview, Vendor Association Chairperson Anne Saxelby also offered encouraging words for the new management arrangement. “I definitely feel positive about the new market,” said Saxelby. It has taken a long time to get here (after many months of negotiations),” she added, “but I think we’re finally in a good spot, and I think the vendors are excited about the move and about the new space.”
Back in 2011, many local advocates, including Saxelby, fought a losing battle to save the original Essex Street Market building. That fight, however, was over long ago. Now the vendors and many locals are focused on making sure the new market retains its soul in a shiny new home. One drawback of the current historic building is that people walking by cannot see the businesses located inside. The new building, with its glass facade, will offer vendors good street-side visibility. Saxelby said most vendors, who have struggled in the years since the Essex Crossing project was announced, are looking forward to the boost that a new home will hopefully bring.
The new market will serve as a companion to another Essex Crossing amenity, a large subterranean shopping pavilion known as the Market Line. It will begin in the space below the Essex Street Market and extend over three development parcels to the east. There are some fears that the historic market’s unique identity will be subsumed by the Market Line. Both city officials and Essex Crossing developers tell us, however, they’re determined to keep that from happening.
A spokesperson for EDC said the city sees the Market Line as a, “great partner in our common purpose of providing quality food to the Lower East Side community.” But at the same time, “Essex Street Market will continue to be its own, distinct entity given that it is a mission-driven public market with a defined civic purpose. The goal of Essex Street Market will continue to be supporting small businesses and encouraging entrepreneurship, providing access to affordable, fresh food, and preserving the cultural tradition of public markets as strong community hubs with curated events and free programming in a safe and engaging public space. ”
Rohan Mehra of the Prusik Group, part of Delancey Street Associates, agreed. Referring to the Essex Street Market and the Market Line, he said, “they are distinct entities.” Explaining that the nearly 80-year-old Lower East Side market was, “our inspiration,” Mehra said the new small format retail center is intended to complement the Essex Street Market. “The idea,” he said, “is that between (the two markets), both located in one of the most diverse places in New York City, that shoppers can find anything imaginable, at all price points.” Mehra added that the focus of the Market Line, like the Essex Street Market, is on serving the local community. He acknowledged a need to attract shoppers from outside the neighborhood, but explained, “our feeling has always been that if the local community shops there, everyone else will go there, too. Tourists are looking for local flavor, history, character. If we are inclusive, the rest will follow.”
Construction of the new Essex Street Market is expected to be completed by June of next year. The vendors will make the move across Delancey Street in the fall. The developers and city officials have promised that the move will be seamless. The market will remain open until the debut of the new facility.
Anne Saxelby said she hopes local residents will continue to patronize the market in the months remaining before the move. “I’m really excited,” she told us. “It’s a great opportunity to grow our businesses. I would just encourage people in the neighborhood to keep supporting the market and we’ll get through this transition together!”
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Adam and CiCi of Greg’s Trees. Photo courtesy of Essex Street Market.
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.
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.
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.