The Essex Market has a welcoming atmosphere that makes shopping a more enjoyable experience and provides the opportunity to meander amongst friendly and enthusiastic vendors. It is the result of 76 years of local residents’ combined efforts, transient immigrant populations, three mayors, local merchants and their suppliers. What began as a safe harbor for street merchants seeking sanctuary from crowded streets has turned into a cohesive indoor market that caters to many local restaurants and residents.
The influx of Puerto Rican immigrants in the 1950s has significantly influenced the market, even today. One can find a respectable amount of yucca, aloe, cabocha squash, cassava dried beans, among several other Puerto Rican produce sold by Batista’s Grocery and Viva Fruits & Vegetables.
As much as an influence that Batista’s Grocery seems to impose, the market’s diversity extends to a myriad of goods and produce, ranging from imported cheeses and sardines in hot tomato sauce to macrobiotic Japanese delicacies and locally sourced heritage pork chops.
Other vendors include Heritage Meat Shop, New Star Fish Market, Rainbo’s Fish, Roni-Sue’s Chocolates, Saxelby Cheesemongers, Brooklyn Taco Company, Port Rice Importing Co., Tra La La Juice Bar and even a place to get your hair done — Aminova’s Barber Shop.
Prices at the market are reasonable, depending on how artisanal and local you want to get. Produce is cheap, with peppers and eggplant for sale at 99 cents per pound. If you happen to be yearning to splurge, you can also find octopus marinated in olive oil for $9.95 from Formaggio Essex, or a small bag of chocolate-covered bacon for $5 from Roni-Sue’s Chocolates.
Andrew Clark, 31, who works at Formaggio Essex, agreed.
“There’s always a nice buzz in the air,” Clark said. “Modern supermarkets are convenient, but they’re so sterile, but here it’s very lovely, and you can come here and actually enjoy shopping for your groceries.”
Steinhardt freshman Annamaria Louloudis said the atmosphere was very welcoming.
“I love the communal feel of the place,” Louloudis said. “The vendors are friendly to customers and to [one other] plus there are tons of awesome finds.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 print edition. Katya Simkhovich is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]