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.
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.”
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.
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).