The iconic Lower East Side market recently debuted its 37,000-square-foot iteration, and PSFK researchers stopped by to see if it delivered on its promise to maintain local representation with a sleek rebranding for modern audiences

Essex Market is a radical update on an existing market that served the Lower East Side area since 1888. For over 100 years the original market on Essex Street served the neighborhood’s waves of immigrants, but as the neighborhood changed to include a young professional elite, the market became out of date.

Developers have relaunched the market in a new location, and while it still serves with some grocery and delicatessen options, it leans heavily into the food experience. In many ways, Essex Market can be compared with the other food markets that have opened in the city: the Spanish market in Hudson Yards or the Time Out Market in Dumbo. Lower East Side will also see another “foodery” market called Marketline due to open in 2019.

PSFK spoke to the Essex Market team to get their thoughts on the new iteration of the longstanding food outpost:

“Shopping at Essex Market has always been a unique experience, as local residents and visitors alike gather to browse a diverse collection of goods. Our vendors all have an individual story and distinctive personality that adds flavor to their already delicious offerings. Ready to share their experiences and knowledge, they give a true neighborhood feel to our historic public market…. Though in a new space, Essex Market continues to be a public market, allowing vendors the same opportunity to continue serving residents—old and new—with both affordable and specialty foods.”

Lead designers for this space, SHoP Architects, say that they designed this space to feel both “familiar and grand,” communicating continuity through the use of materials while giving the market a new setting that “reflects its role in the culinary life of New York City.”

Today it contains more than 20 vendors but there’s a plan for many more to open in this building and in the buildings that will run alongside it.

What It Does Right

  • There seems to be a well considered curation of vendors, with outposts of retailers from across the boroughs. Customers don’t need to know this, but they’ve found some of the most interesting companies—like the florist Saffron.
  • Their Essex Kitchen is a demonstration kitchen and event space that offers a wide array of food education programming, much of it free.
  • Location is great for late night overspill from Lower East Side nightlife.

What It Could Do Better

  • Seating upstairs is impractical and lose some of the social aspects. You can’t pick up and go sit down.
  • Is this for the local community. Lower East Side is changing, but this is on the edge of project. It’s some serious gentrification.
  • The grocery stores seem out of place. Maybe it was part of the objective to have grocery stores but we can’t really imagine who will be visiting them.

Overall

In general, PSFK found Essex Market to be a rich experience that reflects the latest food and food service trends, hindered by some impracticalities like seating and also accessibility for the original communities.

A presentation deck featuring 64 pages of photographs and opinions is available for PSFK Members here.

Essex Market

Essex Market is a radical update on an existing market that served the Lower East Side area since 1888. For over 100 years the original market on Essex Street served the neighborhood’s waves of immigrants, but as the neighborhood changed to include a young professional elite, the market became out of date.

Developers have relaunched the market in a new location, and while it still serves with some grocery and delicatessen options, it leans heavily into the food experience. In many ways, Essex Market can be compared with the other food markets that have opened in the city: the Spanish market in Hudson Yards or the Time Out Market in Dumbo. Lower East Side will also see another “foodery” market called Marketline due to open in 2019.