Over the five years that Arhen Resleff has lived in downtown Spokane, he’s seen it undergo a revival. But the downtown still was missing something that Resleff believes is vital to its success: a market to buy fresh and local foods.
Though he was born in Spokane, Resleff grew up in Seattle surrounded by easy-to-access local markets. When he returned to Spokane after college, he was disappointed to find there weren’t any downtown spots to easily pick up good food for a good cost, he said. While the Spokane Public Market, which closed in 2014 due to low sales, once filled the void, the downtown was in need of something new.
“So I thought, somebody needs to be the spearhead for this,” he said.
On Tuesday, the new Spokane Public Market – which is unaffiliated with the former Spokane Public Market – opened at the Parkade Plaza with about 10 vendors selling a mix of locally farmed greens, sweet grapes and cherries, freshly baked breads, and some local craftwork.
“Pretty much the fact that this is in existence is exciting,” said Elizabeth Hooker, the marketing and programming manager for the Downtown Spokane Partnership, a nonprofit group focused on downtown revitalization. “We’ve been trying to get something like this off the ground for a few years.”
Resleff approached Downtown Spokane Partnership earlier this year and started to talk with Hooker about what her organization would like to see from a downtown market, she said. People headed home from work as well as downtown residents should be able to grab something on their way home or pick up their perishables for the week, Hooker said.
Although central Spokane has fresh food options in the forms of the Main Market Co-op, the new My Fresh Basket, or other farmers markets like the Kendall Yards Night Market, none is truly in the heart of the downtown, Resleff said.
After receiving authorization to set up the market on the plaza, which is private property, Resleff went about spreading the word to local businesses and farmers.
“Everyone was very supportive and excited about the idea,” he said. “This is something they really wanted to have.”
Alexander Ekins and Amy Dolomont, owners and managers of the Ace of Spades farm located five minutes outside of the city, said they see the market as another way to support local foods and to better the community’s access to them. The Ace of Spades farm focuses primarily on growing greens and harvesting them by hand, without use of tractors or pesticides, Ekins said.
Standing in front of a table piled with bright red radishes, crunchy heads of lettuce, and their own Homestead salad mix that is served at the Davenport Hotel, Ekins and Dolomont were optimistic about the market despite the slow trickle of customers walking through.
“It takes time for a market to develop,” Ekins said.
Cristine Vallone brought her son to the market because she loved it when her own mother would take her to farmers markets as a kid, she said. Having heard about the market on Facebook, Vallone said she thought it was the perfect place to meet a friend – and after sharing a bag of hybrid cotton-candy flavored grapes with her son, Vallone said she plans on coming back to the market frequently in the future.
“I don’t live downtown anymore, but if I did, I’d definitely come here and shop every Tuesday,” she said.
At the Fruit Girl’s stand, Parker Bradstreet welcomed passersby off the street with samples of fresh fruit. Bradstreet, who plans to open his own fruit stand and juice bar in Coeur d’Alene soon, said that the steady business at the market was good practice for when he ventures out on his own.
“It’s been pretty great,” he laughed while handing out sweet cherries. “Everything’s going well.”
Bradstreet’s boss, Jennifer Mcclelland, worked at the original Spokane Public Market before it closed, and she was excited to be back selling fruit downtown, Bradstreet said.
As the downtown continues to renovate and grow, Resleff said he hopes the market also will be a reminder of its past. Camped in the unique space and character that is the Parkade Plaza, the market incorporated the ’74 Expo logo into its marketing.
“We were going for that retro feel,” he said. “With all this renovation, we wanted to be able to pull back to our roots.”
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