on January 23, 2009
I’ve heard about Pike Place Market from friends and family members for years, all raving about their visits to this market at the foot of Pike Street. I like markets, but I admit to fair amount of suspicion, thinking that everyone was professing to enjoy what they were supposed to enjoy. I sincerely apologize for my skepticism. I’d forgotten what fun it is to be in a big city market, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in one as big as this. Pike Place Market celebrated its centennial two years ago, and now covers nine acres here in central Seattle, attracting over 9 million visitors a year. It has wonderful populist roots, beginning when a city councilman moved to establish a place where farmers could deal directly with shoppers, and eliminate the middlemen that were gouging consumers and giving farmers a raw deal. Despite initial active opposition from those who were about to lose their control (and thus their own economic livelihood), it took off immediately.It’s hard to imagine that its existence was in jeopardy in the sixties and seventies, when developers floated plans to demolish Pike Place and replace it with a multi-use complex. Now, it’s a thriving affair, with multiple pieces (nicely laid out at the market’s website). The classic neon sign sits atop the Main Arcade at the foot of Pike Street, over the uppermost of at least three floors that house farmers, fishmongers, and other food vendors as well as a healthy selection of restaurants. This is where you’ll see (and perhaps be threatened by) the famous flying fish.North of this along Pike Place is the North Arcade, home to the crafts and day vendors. There’s an impressive collection of items for sale, from handmade jewelry to photography to original silk-screened t-shirts to candles. On the east side of Pike Place are the Corner and Post Alley Markets, plus shops on Market and Virginia. This is where we found Beecher’s Homemade Cheese, and is also the location of the first Starbucks (site of many a pilgrimage, evidently). As an older building, it has a slightly different feel from the other 15,000 establishments, but offers the same suite of items with a single exception: you can purchase the special Pike Street Roast only at this location.There are other buildings a little further east and a little further south. I never made it to those, or to any of the subterranean levels in the main arcade. What I did see had more than enough to satisfy nearly all of the senses: the bright colors of the produce were a nice contrast with the typically grey Seattle day. Sounds included the tunes of the buskers, on piano, ukelele, guitar and assorted other instruments; salespitches of the vendors, ranging from the polite to the insistent to the over-the-top showmen. Restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops held little knots of regulars, workers on break, and lunchtime crowds. It would have been easy to spend a half day or more here.
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