Essex Market debuts bigger home for Lower East Side food destination

An exterior of the new Essex Market on Thursday. Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

The new location hosts 37 vendors and is about three times the size of the original space.

An exterior of the new Essex Market on Thursday.
An exterior of the new Essex Market on Thursday. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

A tasty slice of the old-fashioned New York food world gets a shiny new home on Monday when the Essex Market opens its doors to the public.

Vendors offering everything from fresh spices, cheese, meat and fish to fruit, ice cream and pastries fill the walkways of the airy new market, which features a large seating area, custom-built stalls and lots of natural light.

It’s a sea change from the 1940s-era, one-story brick building that housed many of the vendors until last week (and was previously known as the Essex Street Market). At 37,000 square feet, the new market, on the other side of Delancey Street, is about three times the size of the original site.

“That will always be a special market in our heart, but this is so beautiful, so well done,” said Saad Bourkadi, who moved his Essex Olive & Spice House shop into its new location last week. “It’s not like a mall, it has a lot of character.”

The market is part of the massive Essex Crossing development, an urban renewal project that spans nine sites and 1.9 million square feet on the Lower East Side. Essex Crossing includes housing, office space and retail (including the forthcoming food hall Market Line), as well as a new public park and bike paths.

The new Essex Market is located within The Essex, a 26-story luxury residential tower that also houses a 14-screen Regal Cinemas movie theater.

Nearly 40 vendors, a mix of old and new, will operate in the market, part of the Essex Crossing development.
Nearly 40 vendors, a mix of old and new, will operate in the market, part of the Essex Crossing development. Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

The old market building will be turned over from the city to the developers of Essex Crossing. They are expected to demolish the structure and construct a new building.

The market’s former home was not large enough or properly equipped, said Megha Chopra, assistance vice president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation and director of the Essex Market.

“It was not really designed to do as much business as we were doing out of there,” she said during a tour of the new market. “It just wasn’t built to do what we are doing today.”

The new market hosts 37 vendors, including 21 returning business owners like Bourkadi. His new shop boasts a 27-foot countertop and glass case where colorful spices — including turmeric, ginger and Moroccan paprika — are displayed. Along the back wall, decorative metal canisters hold different types of infused olive oils, made with olives from a family farm in Morocco.

“This gives you a better view,” Bourkadi said, noting only spices in sealed containers will be sold to customers.

Returning vendors include the Essex Olive & Spice House.
Returning vendors include the Essex Olive & Spice House. Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Many of the business owners had input on the design and construction of their stalls inside the market. EDC officials declined to disclose how much vendors are paying for their city-subsidized shops but said they are based on location and square-footage. Returning vendors did not see an increase in rent.

“It was very important for us to keep the rents the same,” Chopra said. “We want them to keep that same customer base they have built over decades.”

Christina Seid’s Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, a lower Manhattan staple serving a mix of exotic and classic treats for several decades, is one of 16 vendors that are new to the market. She named her new stand Lower East Side Ice Cream Factory and offers flavors including baklava, dulce de leche, cherry pistachio, banana pudding and squid ink. It also offers New York City classics such as egg creams and soda floats.

“I love the feel of it,” she said. “All the vendors are so nice.”

Rico Cirignano, head butcher at new vendor Essex Shambles, said he is excited to bring the company’s custom-cut, sustainable meat to the market. The company, which has a Harlem location dubbed Harlem Shambles, features meat from livestock that is grass-fed and raised without hormones and chemicals, including beef, lamb, pork, chicken, duck, rabbit and goat. It also follows a noise-to-tail approach that uses every part of the animal, he said.

“I’ve always wanted to be a butcher in a market,” Cirignano said. “Hopefully I can trade meat with the fish guy for some fish.”

The new location features lots of natural light.
The new location features lots of natural light. Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Essex Market will also feature two full-service restaurants — including a new Indian concept from restaurateur Roni Mazumdar called Dhamaka slated to open later this year — and a demonstration kitchen that could be a place for school-age children and seniors to learn about nutrition and healthy meal preparation, Chopra said.

“We are a public market and really view ourselves as an anchor for the local community,” said Chopra. “In order to fulfill that, we really need a gathering space."

And the full vendor list is…

Grocery

  • Essex Farms
  • Luna Bros.
  • Viva Fruits & Vegetables
  • Luis Meat Market
  • New Star Fish Market
  • Essex Shambles

Prepared foods

  • Peasant Stock
  • Davidovich Bakery
  • Cafe d’Avignon
  • Ni Japanese Deli
  • Nordic Preserves
  • Arancini Bros.
  • Puebla Mexican
  • Dominican Cravings
  • Shopsin’s General Store
  • Samesa
  • Don Ceviche
  • Eat Gai
  • Mille Nonne
  • Heros & Villains
  • Zerza

Specialty

  • Czar’s Grooming
  • Saffron
  • Flower Power
  • L.E.S. Ice Cream Factory
  • Roni-Sue’s Chocolates
  • Porto Rico Coffee
  • Formaggio Essex
  • Essex Olive & Spice
  • Tops Hops Beer Shop
  • Valley Shepherd Creamery
  • Riverdel
  • Josephine’s Feast
  • Sugar Sweet Sunshine
  • Valley Shepherd Creamery
  • Riverdel
  • Josephine’s Feast

Where: 88 Essex Street | Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Lisa L. Colangelo