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Essex Street Market Adds Vendors, Even as Relocation Plans Move Forward

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The following story first appeared in the November 2013 edition of The Lo-Down’s print magazine.

Davidovich Bagels is one of several new Essex Street Market vendors.
Davidovich Bagels is one of several new Essex Street Market vendors.

Building a shiny, modern new home for the 73-year-old Essex Street Market is a cornerstone of the urban redevelopment plan that will reshape the Lower East Side landscape over the next decade. The new market will be twice as large, with brand-new infrastructure and state-of-the-art amenities for both vendors and patrons.

But the impending relocation, which is roughly five years away, doesn’t in any way mean the market is going into stasis. In fact, just the opposite: business is booming. Two new vendors have opened in newly created spaces; two more new vendors will launch between now and the end of the year; and one existing vendor is expanding to larger digs.

“Essex Street Market is more vibrant than it has been in decades, offering some of the city’s most inspired local fare alongside good grocery staples to Lower East Siders and visitors alike,” said Kate Blumm, a spokeswoman for the market’s landlord, the city’s Economic Development Corp.

Artisanal ice cream maker Luca & Bosco debuted in early September, just inside the northern entrance. Luca & Bosco serves scoops and pints to go, in flavors like lemon cheesecake and a New Orleans-inspired “drunk and salty caramel,” as well as hot chocolate, which is available with or without ice cream on top. Proprietors Catherine Oddenino and Ruthie Vishlitzky got their start at street fairs and pop-up festivals while working out of an incubator kitchen at Harlem’s La Marqueta; Essex Street is their first permanent spot.

A month later, on Oct. 10, Davidovich Bakery, a 15-year-old bagel wholesaler in Queens, broke new ground of its own on Essex Street, opening its inaugural retail outlet. It sells hand-rolled, kettle-boiled, kosher bagels as both ready-to-eat sandwiches and by the dozen, as well as a variety of other baked goods and very good coffee. The coffee isn’t a coincidence: manager Guy Puglia ran the East Village’s beloved coffee shop The Bean for a decade. His new gig had him smiling ear-to-ear on opening day.

“This market is amazing,” he said. “It’s not just the customers who are great, but also everyone who works here, everyone looks out for each other.”

The Davidovich stall, in the northeastern corner of the market, and the Luca & Bosco cart bracket a new and improved seating area. Old booths have been replaced with café tables and chairs that offer a larger number of seats in a more flexible layout.

Essex Street Market via thelodownny.com

Just around the corner, the gates will go up on yet another new business this month, when a soup vendor called Peasant Stock opens. Proprietor Christine Juritsche, a 20-year-veteran of the restaurant management business, says she “always wanted to do something behind the stove.” Peasant Stock will offer four to six varieties of soup daily, in 12-ounce and 16-ounce servings and take-home quarts. Chicken soup will be a staple, though the menu will change daily, based on seasonal ingredients she plans to source primarily at farmers’ markets and local purveyors, including her new neighbor, Heritage Meats.

Juritsche discovered Essex Street Market a few years ago, when she went in search of a particular kind of cheese that Saxelby Cheesemongers carried. She fell in love with the notion of someday running her own business there.

“I’m creating my dream job,” she said.

By the end of the year, a fourth and as-yet-unnamed business is expected to move into a stall next to Heritage Meats, which downsized a while back and vacated part of its space; a lease was under negotiation as of press time.

And finally, Porto Rico Importing Co. plans to expand its market presence with the addition of a coffee roaster. The coffee shop, which sells brewed coffee, bulk beans and java-making accessories, plans to shift from its current tiny retail booth to a larger space being vacated by Roni-Sue’s Chocolates. Roni-Sue’s, which graduated to an independent storefront at 148 Forsyth St. last month, will swap, establishing a smaller, retail-only shop in the former Porto Rico spot.

When the next-generation Essex Street Market eventually opens around the corner along the south side of Delancey Street, all of the existing vendors will get spaces, at rent levels comparable to what they are paying at the time, and the city will pay their relocation expenses—a deal that was negotiated with the redevelopment proposal.

But until the moving trucks show up, it’s full steam ahead in the old building.

“We will continue to support a diverse mix of vendors at the market in the coming years, and look forward to seeing the market continue to give local food-makers a highly visible stage to share their talents,” Blumm said.

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