With an opening night that featured globally inspired food, cocktails from its central bar and revamped architecture familiar to an older generation of Lancaster residents, Southern Market resumed a central place in the life of the city on Thursday. city of Lancaster.
The former Farmer’s Market at 100 S. Queen St. reopened at 4 p.m. Thursday as a 250-seat food hall with a central bar. At the start of the ‘new’ Southern Market, around 75 people showed up, some using their phones to take photos and videos as they walked inside.
The revitalized South Market features a large mural of moss and living plants in front of the main entrance and showcases the original open canvas trusses that create a column-free 7,600 square foot space. As a food hall, it seats about 250 people, which was three-quarters full in half an hour on Thursday.
“I think it’s fantastic. We live in town and we’re very happy about that,” said Susie Sload, 64, a retiree who previously worked in sales and is currently volunteering for Lancaster Central Market. “It looks like a community center.”
Southern Market, the first major structure designed by famed local architect C. Emlen Urban, opened in 1888 as a Wednesday and Saturday farmers’ market. The Farmers’ Market closed in 1986 and was subsequently used as office space, including for the City of Lancaster, which owned the building and once had its council chambers there.
The city sold the property to non-profit Lancaster Equity, which has partnered with Willow Valley Communities, a Willow Street retirement community that led renovations to the 20,000 square foot space, oversees the dining room and holds the liquor license for the bar. Willow Valley Communities became interested in Southern Market due to Willow Valley’s plans to build a 20-story apartment across the street, then took the lead on the project.
“We’ve come a long way”
On opening night, Candace Reynolds, a 40-year-old social worker from East Hempfield Township, said she loves all the different food options in what she hopes will become a regular stop when she’s in city.
“I see myself meeting people here for lunches and things for work,” said Reynolds, who was joined by her friend Jheny Viti.
“I’m glad they have a bar because it’s not usually something you find in a market,” said Viti, a 41-year-old stay-at-home mum from Manor Township.
The 30-seat bar, dubbed Bar 1888, was particularly popular on Thursday. All seats were filled within minutes of opening.
Sitting with his wife and another couple at a corner of the bar was Pierce Atwater, a 66-year-old trophy and awards salesman whose family once owned Oblenders, a furniture store at 37-43 S. Queen St. That store closed in 2000, then was demolished to make way for the Lancaster County Convention Center.
“I worked there and came here all the time when it was a deal,” Atwater said. “I wished they had a bar back then – we’ve come a long way, baby!”
At a nearby table, Valerie Bradley, 57, remembers coming to Southern Market with her grandmother when it was still a farmers’ market. “As a little girl, I loved the market. … I love that they’ve remodeled the building. It’s beautiful.”
Helping businesses grow
The food hall is set up as a business incubator, with onsite support and business training for the nine startups selected to participate so far. Market Director Mary Ellen Davis said Thursday’s opening night provided a deep learning opportunity for sellers.
“It’s really a first step into the real world of hospitality and what it looks like in a great restaurant,” Davis said.
Jonathan Forbes, owner of Soul Food “X” Marks the Spot restaurant, was feeling some of the pressure about half an hour before the first customers arrived.
“The fact that he’s finally here is weird and surreal,” he said.
When asked why he was nervous, Forbes replied, “I have no idea. Every aspect of it, just because it’s such a new thing. You don’t know what you’re heading into.
Lancaster City Council Speaker Ismail “Izzy” Smith-Wade-El applauded the diversity of the opening day crowd, as well as the people serving them.
“I think people will draw attention to development and architecture, but ultimately it’s about developing opportunities for the entrepreneurs who are here,” he said. “I think we’ve developed a lot of success at Lancaster over the last 15 or 20 years, and any opportunity for more black and brown people to be part of that success is a win for me.”