BY GABE HERMAN | The new Essex Market is now officially open for business on the Lower East Side.
The marketplace held its official grand opening and ribbon cutting on May 13, in its new building at 88 Essex St., at Delancey St. It previously was located at 120 Essex St.
The new market brought along all 21 vendors from the original space. It also added 16 new ones, including the Lower East Side Ice Cream Factory; sandwich shop Heros and Villains; Don Ceviche, which offers Peruvian food; and Samesa, which makes Middle Eastern cuisine.
The 37,000-square-foot space is three times the size of the previous market, plus features two full-service restaurants and a demonstration kitchen. There will be free cooking and nutrition workshops called Fresh Bites on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on the mezzanine level, with classes also translated into Spanish and Chinese.
The Essex Street Market was founded in 1940, when Mayor LaGuardia led the effort to deal with pushcart vendors clogging up the streets.
The public market’s new home is in a building that is part of the Essex Crossing development. The complex includes a new Regal 14-screen movie theater and nearly 200 rental apartments.
At a press conference on opening day, local officials and community members celebrated the new market and its diverse offerings, and noted the years it took to make the project happen.
James Patchett, president of the nonprofit New York City Economic Development Corporation, said they had worked for the last decade on this project, and that it was a coming together of new and old New York.
“This is what New York City should look like,” Patchett said. “What’s special about Essex is its diversity, in a diverse neighborhood.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said it was a true community effort to make the new market happen.
“Now we can celebrate this building,” she said. “We can celebrate different cultures that have come with each wave of immigration. Really, this could only have happened on the Lower East Side.”
Among the groups and people the speakers thanked were Delancey Street Associates, the Essex Street Market Vendors Association, Community Board 3, Brewer and Councilmember Margaret Chin, and the Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations.
Brewer said that Tim Laughlin, of the Lower East Side Partnership Business Improvement District, was instrumental in the project. At the press conference, Laughlin called the new space a state-of-the-art facility and a unique collection of tenants in Manhattan.
“This project is a true representation of what we can do when the community works together,” Laughlin said. “We all should be very proud.”
“This is such a beautiful space,” said Councilmember Chin.
She noted all the work that went into the project, including ensuring that original vendors could move into the same amount of space without a rent increase, which she said was hard to achieve but the right thing to do.
Eric Suh, of the New Star Fish Market, a family business founded in 1994, said most of his customers were excited about the move but some were disappointed and worried about losing the character of the old building.
Suh acknowledged the former building did have a lot of historic flavor.
“But the heart and soul of Essex Market really lies in the vendors and shoppers that make up this community,” he said. “The vendors who offer a more personal, intimate shopping experience, who are experts in their craft and dedicate their whole lives to what they do.”
The public market, Suh said, is a place “where family-owned businesses like mine can thrive.”
Rhonda Kave, owner and operator of Roni-Sue’s Chocolates, a market fixture since 2007, also spoke of the place’s community feel. She said this was especially important during a time in New York when so many mom-and-pop stores are struggling to survive.
“It’s truly a unique place,” Kave said. “The Essex Market gives so many small vendors and businesses the opportunity to realize their dreams.”
The chocolatier said the market allows vendors to connect with the community.
“This is like a microcosm of the Lower East Side,” she said, “and to be a part of that is really special.”