Rochester Public Market settled into its current nine-acre home off Union Street north of Main 100 years ago this year. It sold wholesale at first, but after a decade opened for retail sales. Jewish and Italian immigrants who lived nearby were the main shoppers.
In every way the market is a community success story. In fact, it’s one of only five markets around the world to be named a Great Market by the Project for Public Spaces.
Today, customers come from all over-city, towns and countryside-every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. A million and a half make the trip every year. Seemingly every language can be heard. With more than 300 stalls and things to see, smell and taste at every turn, the market is one of the liveliest pictures of Rochester life.
There’s the hydroponics produce lady, the gourmet cheese and olive guy who gives free samples, the fishmongers, the bakers, the free-range-chicken-and-grain-fed-beef guy. You’ll find imported and New York cheese, fresh and dried herbs, mountains of locally grown produce (including lots of organic), bagels, sandwiches, coffee, dry goods, crafts, jewelry and even clothing.
Gardeners stuff their cars with starter plants and overflowing hanging baskets at bargain prices. Politicians work the crowd. Restaurant chefs gather stacks of fresh produce, herbs, meat and fish for the evening meal. Cops and visitors catch up on neighborhood news over steaming cups of coffee.
To visit is to take a step back in time, to the organized commotion of buyers angling for a deal, of vendors hawking their wares and hauling boxes and burlap bags, Christmas trees and watermelons. The horse-drawn carts have become panel vans and pickups, and you won’t find any chickens squawking and tottering around. But thankfully, one thing has not changed. When the farm comes to the city, happy mayhem is bound to ensue.
05/27/05 (C) Rochester Business Journal