After 20 years of planning and months of construction, the Spokane Public Market became a reality Thursday offering a year-round home to dozens of farmers, food purveyors and artisans.
Despite the cool, spring rain and construction on Second Avenue, the market was buzzing with dozens of shoppers sampling everything from jalapeno-flavored popcorn to peach balsamic vinegar. More than 40 vendors lined the airy warehouse, offering fresh produce, local honey, baked goods and plant starts.
According to market board president Kay Stoltz, 75 percent of the vendors are food-related and 25 percent sell crafts or other artisan wares. Shoppers can come for lunch, buy fresh produce and meat for dinner, and grab a bouquet of flowers or bottle of wine from the Market Place Wine Bar.
“It’s terrific. I’m giddy. The vendors are very happy,” says Stoltz.
“It’s going to be a continued work in progress. Getting open isn’t the challenge. It’s getting it to be a place where people want to be,” says Chris Batten of BR 3 Development, the group overseeing the market project.
Initially, the market will be open three days a week – Thursday through Saturday. Batten hopes to have it operating four days a week by late fall.
Phase two of the market, scheduled to open in a year or so, includes plans for more vendor space and a commercial kitchen where local chefs can teach cooking classes.
“Being a vendor here is going to bring us all together. It’s what the community needs,” says Jill Pittman, whose fiancée Josh Yake owns Gourmet Foragables and sells wild-foraged morel, porcini and oyster mushrooms.
In the next booth over, the line is five deep with customers waiting to try El Mercado del Pueblo’s salsas and freshly made tortilla chips.
“If you like it hot, this is our number-one seller,” says owner Gilda Meyer, pointing to the open tub of salsa picante.
She’s also offering samples of the vibrant green salsa de lechuga, or lettuce salsa, which looks deceptively like guacamole. It’s blended with oil and jalapenos – creamy and delicious with a bit of a kick.
Meyer hopes her booth will inspire shoppers to visit her Mexican market at 1814 N. Division St.
For small food producers like Gary and Michele Welker, who own Mr. Magic’s Cupcake Factory, the market is the perfect place to test their product.
“It makes it very desirable to jump in without a lot of upfront money,” says Welker, handing out samples of his inside-out-peanut butter-cup-flavored cupcakes.
“Have you ever had a pasty?” Marty Wuollet asks a shopper. He sees the market as a place to educate people about his savory ground beef pastries called pasties.
“It’s good advertising,” he says, handing a customer a plate of the hot pasties.
The market has a few seating areas so you can sit down with a cup of Doma coffee from Natural Start Coffee and a huckleberry scone from The Scone Ranger. Don’t miss Morning Sun Baking Company, with cinnamon rolls, whoopie pies and whole-grain bread.
Bigger appetites can order a falafel or gyro sandwich from the Taza Truck parked at the back entrance, or a grilled German sausage from Susie & David’s Cattle Company.
Monica Meglasson, former winemaker and owner of Modern Tart, sells beautiful savory tarts, including a miniature spiced strawberry chevre tart. She also makes an onion with white cheddar tart, which can be enjoyed at the market or taken home to serve as a meal.
“I like things that go with wine,” says Meglasson, who also sells a lavender sunset pound cake inspired by the Lavender Sunset drink at Wild Sage restaurant.
The lingering lavender essence and hint of hibiscus would pair perfectly with a glass of dry white wine and a mixed green salad for an elegant summer meal.
The market is located at 24 W. Second Ave. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. There is a large, free parking lot on Pacific Avenue, adjacent to the House of Charity just north of the market.
Parking is also available in front of the Sun People Dry Goods store and on neighboring streets.