With a champagne toast yesterday, the vendors of Essex Street Market said goodbye to their longtime home at 120 Essex Street ahead of its relocation across the street. Opened in 1940 in an effort to remove pushcarts from the street, the market continued to provide an affordable, diverse variety of food to its Lower East Side neighbors and beyond.
Inside the market on Sunday, some of the vendors were already packed and gone while others stayed open awaiting a ceremonial bell ringing organized by the Lower East Side Partnership. While pouring out bubbly for the vendors, team creative lead Nina LoSchiavo said she’s excited about the new space at 125 Delancey Street, which expands the number of vendors from 21 to 40. When asked about the fate of the building’s other tenants, LoSchiavo said Essex Restaurant has yet to officially announce their move to 124 Rivington Street and that she wan’t sure about New Roma Pizza and other shops that face Delancey Street.
At 6pm, the bells rang out as the vendors closed their registers in the 79-year-old building for the last time. Vendors from Luis Meat Market, Rainbo’s Fish Market and Viva Fruits and Vegetables crossed the aisle and toasted each other to continued success. Viva cashier Sobeida Delacruz, a longtime Orchard Street resident who described herself as “LES all the way,” told me, “We’re all happy about the new market but it’s sad to leave this one, you know?”
Over at Essex Olive & Spice, owner Saad Bourkadi, who hails from Morocco and was an accountant in Manhattan before opening his business two years ago. He loved knowing his regulars by name, but said he’s also looking forward to the new digs. “The most important thing about the move for is that I’ll also be having the same prices.”
While a small party took place by the exit door, I met maintenance employee Alexander Burlos, who was joined by his fellow building staff as he rung the biggest bell of them all. Burlos, an employee of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, is waiting to hear whether he’ll be placed in the new market. me “I’m really gonna miss all my vendors, man,” he said. “Especially thePorto Rico [Importing Co.] coffee stall, I just love those guys.”
In the dining area, some final customers enjoyed the last moments under a history of the market displayed on the wall next to them. LES local Kate Temple-West said she felt like market was a part of her and wanted to be a part of its final moments. “Everyone came here from the community and it was a real hub to connect. It had the best prices, the best food and you got to know the vendors– especial Jeffrey [Ruhalter] and his meat market. He fed steak dinners to people during the  recession and the legacy he left after his death in 2016 makes this such a special place.”
The market will reopen on May 18 inside of Essex Crossing, in a 26-story building that occupies the site of the former Jade Fountain Liquors and Olympic Diner (they closed in June of 2014) and a disused building that held a group mural show curated by local artist Hanksy in 2017. Back then, Hanksy told Bedford + Bowery that the developers “realized this neighborhood is rich with culture and wanted to pay tribute to it and the building with one last rush of fresh air.”
Cuchifrotos Gallery will also relocate to Essex Crossing. On its last day at 120 Essex, I was given tour of the photographs by featured artist Nat Ward, who was there with his wife and daughter. Ward’s black-and-white portraits of the shadows cast by New Mexico’s Rio Grande Bridge were printed at 4′ x 6′. He told me they illustrated a “landscape where your mortality is always present combined with my own emotions of becoming a father and the clarity you find in those spaces under that circumstance.”
Artists Alliance director Jodi Waynberg, who oversees the gallery from her office on Suffolk Street, said the new Cuchifritos space was “a bit bigger and we have windows that face the street. It’ll give us a chance to interact directly with the neighborhood that we haven’t haven’t had before.”