Rickety, weighted down push carts, serving everything from apples to dried fish and pickles, jammed travel to a standstill on New York City’s Lower East Side. It’s 1940, and Mayor Fiorello La Guardia does something about it. He creates an urban shopping mall, the Essex Street Market, a solution that lasts nearly 80 years.

The Essex Street Market Experience

Decades after push carts and hoop skirts left the scene, the Essex Street Market served an evolving crowd of residents on the corner of Delancey Street.

The people changed as European immigrant families established in the Lower East Side found their social footing in a fast expanding New York, moving uptown and out to New Jersey and Long Island.

Another group in search of the American Dream always followed.

No matter who came next, vendors filled the available space with fresh, inexpensive products for sale.

Essex Farm, Essex Street Market

Essex Farms weaves through the market on the last weekend, still fully stock, providing a network for other vendors, even a single chair barber shop.

Essex Olive & Space caters to the healthy Mediterranean diet.

Luis Meat Market moved from the LES streets to the Essex Street Market when it first opened. Reputation and price have kept the business going over eight decades.

Plentiful fresh fruit and vegetables at Luna Brothers.

The good news is that a second Essex Street Market, including all the current vendors and more will make their home, just across Delancey Street, in a couple of weeks.

New Star, helped by generous City lease agreements, makes low-priced seafood available daily.

Over the counter, appropriate apparel makes Nordic Preserves offerings more authentic.

Before leaving, we bought the last chocolate chip muffin in this vendor’s booth.

The gregarious woman at the counter told us she was excited about the upcoming move, but like the rest of New York, she’ll miss the old world that will disappear when the businesses set up shop in a gleaming, upscale location — just across the street but a century away.

The new Essex Street Market opens in May on the southeast corner of Delancey and Essex. It’s easily accessible on the F Subway Line. For those who prefer to stay above ground, you can find the market where the Williamsburg Bridge floods Delancy as it feeds traffic into Manhattan from Brooklyn.

David Stone is a New York City based writer whose recent published works include 21 Poems and Lucky To Have Her, a novel.


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