Lafayette Park residents are just a short drive or bike ride from Detroit’s Eastern Market. Located just northeast of downtown, this ever expanding commercial district has been operating since 1891. Just like Lafayette Park, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We’re finishing up celebrating our 125th year in business, so it’s a long time Detroit institution,” said Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corporation, the non-profit that manages and promotes the popular site. “Its connection to people over the decades has been a large part of its legacy. It’s been a place where people have come to get started in the economy. The history of the market is filled with stories of new immigrants coming off the boat or plane and getting a start by renting a stall and starting on the American Dream. It’s a place that’s still authentic. It’s a working food district and it’s one of those places in Detroit where nearly everybody feels welcome.”
Carmody and his team are working to preserve the authenticity, diversity and traditions of Eastern Market, while still meeting the changing needs of the city and its residents. In addition to providing healthy, affordable and fair food choices for everyone, the Market has diversified its offerings to include support and assistance to budding food entrepreneurs.
“We now have an inventory of 170 or so companies that make a food product, and they come from throughout the metropolitan area,” said Carmody. “There’s a much higher percentage of people of color and a much higher percentage from Detroit than our farmer base. And, to further get Detroit participation, in 2013 we started building a network of shared use kitchen spaces where Detroit-based entrepreneurs especially could get access to low cost, commercially licensed production space.”
The Market is open year-round, and during the busy summer months it attracts as many as 50,000 visitors a week. In addition to the farmers market on Saturday and Tuesday, there is also a seasonal Sunday market dedicated to non-food entrepreneurs who showcase their artwork, jewelry, music, and more. Future plans include growing Eastern Market’s footprint.
“We’re trying to expand the Market district to the East and to the North and to land that’s been largely depopulated,” explained Carmody. “We have a lot of our manufacturing and food processing businesses that need to expand. They want to stay in Detroit. There are 1,500 jobs here at risk. There’s an opportunity to add another 1,200 jobs, so 2,500-3,000 jobs could be either here or not here. So, we’re working with the City trying to figure out how to expand the market in a way that makes sense and a way that keeps those jobs close and available for Detroit residents.”
For more information on Eastern Market, visit www.easternmarket.com