Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Countdown to the Valentine to the Market Gala

Philbert, the Market's bronze piggy, will also be getting spruced up as part of the overhaul of the Market

We're counting down the days until the Valentine to the Market Gala.  We hope that you'll show your love for Reading Terminal Market by joining us Saturday February 25 in an epic celebration of the Market's 120th Anniversary.  To get your tickets, go to

It's difficult to believe that the Market came into being in 1892.  We doorstepped Paul Steinke, General Manager of the Reading Terminal Market, to chat with him about where the Market came from and the direction in which it's now heading in light of the major renovations currently taking place.

As Paul observes: "The world was a different place in 1892.  The Market was a public market selling foods grown by neighborhood producers.  There was little in the way of resellers; there were only fresh produce merchants.  This all changed as the century progressed. 

"Some of the household names have been with us for a long time. 
Bassetts, for example, was in at the very beginning and Godshalls have been here since 1916. Haltemans is probably the next oldest business - they were founded in 1918. And Spataros joined us in 1947," says Paul.

The Reading Terminal Market is a remarkable place. Few food-related institutions have survived and thrived like the Market. 

Paul continues: "We count ourselves as one of the five oldest continuous markets in the U.S.  I think Lancaster Central Market is possibly the oldest -- that was started in 1740."

The Market is in the throes of a major renovation which when completed around Easter time will dramatically improve what was formerly known as the "back" of the Market.  These renovations were prompted by the skyrocketing growth of the market in terms of merchants and visitors, as Paul explains:  "We currently see around 115,000 visitors a week.  We felt that the market was getting older and our facilities for both customers and merchants were inadequate.  We knew we had to upgrade our basement storage, the elevators and our ancient restrooms."  Clearly, the Market was beginning to show its age!

Nearly 1.5million visitors stop in at the Market every year

The Philadelphia-based firm Friday Architects was selected to design the new space. 

Friday has built up a reputation in the City for the team's ability to come up with creative solutions for hard-working urban spaces.  According to Paul: "They have a lot of experience in the City and were excited by this urban challenge.  Also they have credentials in this area, for example, they are working on the Center for Culinary Enterprise in West Philly."

Paul claims that he is most proud of the way the renovation has brought to life a part of the market that was a bit a dead zone for customers (although much used by the merchants).  "Avenue D, as we call it, will now be center stage and will become a vital part of the Market.  It no longer feels neglected," he comments.

Other intitiatives of which the Market is justifiably proud include:

* enticing Jonathan Best into the Market from their heartland in Chestnut Hill in 2007
* introducing Cajun cuisine in 2009 

Jambalaya is now on the menu at the Market at Beck's Cajun Cafe

* showcasing the organic produce of Fair Food Farmstand, which came to the Market in 2009
* bringing in a Kosher-style merchant in the shape of Hershel's Deli to serve the needs of the Jewish community, which was previously underrepresented in the Market
* expanding the Pennsylvania Dutch presence with the introduction of Millers Twist in 2010
* launching Molly Malloy's, the Market's first gastropub which serves craft beers and fine food daily in the Market.

All renovations should be concluded by April this year.  At this time, Paul will also be announcing the five new merchants who will be opening up for business in the new Market spaces.  Other exciting projects in the pipeline include:
  • A permanent exhibition in the new Rick Nichols room.  "We've been working with the Philadelphia History Museum at Atwater Kent.  They are developing an installation featuring photographic exhibits that will detailing the changing life and times of the Market," Paul adds.
  • Continuing use of technologies such as the payment system Level Up and QR readers.  "We're also going to introduce a gift card to replace our Market vouchers," says Paul. "We'll have proper 'market money' that can be used at any of our merchants."
  • Continuing to develop the space available for events and out of hours entertaining. 
Paul concludes:  "One of our biggest challenges will be to digest the renovations and continue business as usual - only better!  We will have these stunning new facilities such as the Rick Nichols room and the new La Cucina and we want to put them on the map."

To see how your Market is evolving, remember to buy your tickets to the Valentine to the Market.  Party on with other Market lovers and show your love for the Market this month.

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