BY CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Staff Writer
Imagine an open-air marketplace with fresh produce, lots of people, and local businesses profiting from the sales. These marketplaces occur in many big cities, like Boston and New York. You probably wouldn’t think Detroit has one, but it actually does. Eastern Market is the largest open-air marketplace in the United States of America, attracting over 45,000 people on the weekend.
It is located about a mile northeast of Downtown, bordered by Gratiot Avenue on the south, Mack Avenue on the north, St. Aubin Street on the east, and I-75 on the west.
This isn’t the first marketplace in Detroit though. Just like Fort Wayne last week, it’s actually the third. The first marketplace appeared in Cadillac Square, now a small park next to Campus Martius around 1841. It was originally called the Detroit Farmer’s Market, but after being near the city center, and with the smell of the rotting beef, markets opened up on the site of the former Tiger Stadium and present-day Eastern Market.
The land that Tiger Stadium formerly occupied was a farmer’s market from the 1850s until the 1890s. The owner of the Tigers bought the land, built a stadium there in 1895, and named it Bennett Park.
Eastern Market started in the 1850s as well, but it was originally dedicated to wood and hay sales. In 1891, the farmer’s market officially moved to Eastern Market, with sales sheds built to house the products.
Throughout the early 1900s, more and more companies began using Eastern Market to sell their products, and set up shop there. More sheds were constructed in 1922 and 1929 because of the influx of people wanting fresh produce.
After the Great Depression, Eastern Market grew even more. The market expanded in size and became an important place during World War II. It would help package and ship food overseas to the men fighting in Europe.
Post World War II, we began to see a modern supermarket, with many pre-packaged foods, changing how people shopped for food.
Eastern Market was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. It is now 43 acres large with five different sheds. In addition, many of the original buildings are still there. Over 250 vendors come every weekend to sell their products.
One of the largest days of the year for Eastern Market is Flower Day. Over 200,000 people come to Flower Day, which occurs only once per year. It is now in year 46, and the flowers come from Michigan, Canada, Ohio, Indiana, and many other places.
As their website says, “Flower Day is the unofficial kick off to summer in southeast Michigan, the largest event held annually at Eastern Market, and one of Detroit’s proudest traditions or in Red Wings terms – the ultimate hat trick!” This year, Flower Day will be on Sunday, May 20.
Among the original buildings, there are a few companies in Eastern Market. Supino’s Pizzeria and Germack Pistachio Company are a couple of the companies. The New York style pizzeria joint is located at 2457 Russell Street, at the beginning of Eastern Market at I-75. They have been closed since March 11 for what they call their yearly vacation. Their hours are Tuesday-Thursday from 11:00am-8:30pm and Friday and Saturday from 11:00am-10:00pm.
You might recognize the name Germack. That is the company that sells the peanuts at the Tigers games. Located at 2140 Wilkins Street on the eastern side of Eastern Market, they sell all kinds of nuts, but are known for their pistachios and peanuts. They even opened up a coffee shop in the middle of Eastern Market this past month. The company has been located in Detroit since the early 1900s and is still thriving.
These are just a few companies that have succeeded in Eastern Market thanks to the influx of people every day, mostly on Saturdays. You can check out Eastern Market, and see for yourself that Detroit has some fresh, local produce at great prices that will fulfill your tastebuds’ fantasies.