Not everybody can say that the country's oldest continuously operating farmers' market is in their own backyard. Since 1730, Lancaster Central Market has been filling the hearts - and stomachs - of people near and far.
As a toddler, I begged for jugged chocolate milk from Maplehofe Dairy. I sat in an oversized English push-carriage like a tiny queen, steered artfully through the aisles by my babysitting grandparents. Fingers grabbing for each beautiful pastry, cheese block and sausage stick, my appetite turning from little human to small but ravenous bear cub. What kind of icing on my donut? And then, what color sprinkles? The options could make you dizzy with excitement. My child-self thought, ‘Market means food’.
Years later, I trotted into Market sandwiched between two younger siblings. I gripped their wiggling hands crossing over Prince Street, galloped after the jingle of my mother’s bracelets. What a feat, leading a parade of three antsy children through the pleasant chaos of the Saturday lunch rush. ‘What do you all want for lunch? No, a Shady Maple long john does not count’. Despite bickering over who would get the biggest chunk of Köm Essa soft pretzel, we always ended up perched on a bench, faces in the sun, gobbling down our goodies like contented baby birds. My kid-self thought, ‘Market means family’.
During my high school years, it was common to grab a few friends and venture downtown on a Saturday morning. Our kid-adult selves shared our favorite stands, snacks and drinks – a place where we could feel both comfortable and independent. We explored the exotic food selections like Rafiki’s Deli and Saife's Middle Eastern - the taste of other cultures and far-away worlds only miles from our childhood houses. We took photos with the backdrop of the red brick building, striking poses like famous people. Somebody always blinked, and it always ended in candid shots of laughter. My girl-self thought, ‘Market means friends’.
Today, I am 24 years old. Often, on my lunch break, I come to Lancaster Central Market. The familiar aroma of spanakopita from Stella’s Greek Cuisine draws me in every time – and how can you not follow it up with a Wendy Jo’s cookie?
Market still means food.
I stop over to see my grandmother, Moyra Glass, who smiles and glows from behind the Visitors Desk. I know the doorways let in some sun, but let me tell you, she lights the place up. I spend Saturday mornings eating breakfast wraps with my brother, sister, Mom or Dad – and if I’m lucky, with all of the above.
Market still means family.
I run into familiar faces, old and new, the paths of our young-adult lives crisscrossing, even if only for a moment. We talk new jobs and emerging artists, Chameleon Club shows and apartments for rent. We talk about how we just keep liking more and more about this town. Because, now, it is our town. Did I also mention that it's a pretty wonderful place to get ideas for eventually adopting a furry friend?
Market still means friends - of all species.
Today, Market is all of these things. I tack on a new definition with each new chapter of my own life. Central Market is consistent and changing, classic and innovative, the best of ‘then’ lacing hands with the best of ‘now’ to create a place that is, well, timeless. In 2016, I know it has a lot more growing to do - as we all do - and I look forward to being a part of it, as it has been for me.
Central Market is food, family, friends, and so much more. But above all else, Market is Lancaster, and Lancaster is home.