The 136-year-old market in Southeast DC has been shuttered for more than two years since a fire ravaged the building in April 2007. Today, merchants opened for business in the newly improved—and air-conditioned—Eastern Market for the first time.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the North Hall, Fenty, clad in a button-down shirt, khakis, and a red cap, made his way through the market, stopping to shake hands, pose for pictures, and chat with merchants. The masses swarmed around him, and nearly everyone was all smiles.
A line formed quickly at Market Lunch, a breakfast and lunch spot favored among market regulars. It was rumored to be giving away crabcakes to the first 100 customers.
“One of the lunch-counter employees told me about it two weeks ago, so I put it in my BlackBerry,” said Shereyll Brooks, who works near the market. “Now I don’t think it’s going to happen. We’re too far back.”
Brooks said she frequents the lunch spot almost daily. Her coworker Ben Welle, who stood nearby, was looking forward to the fried chicken. “Back to work we go,” he said.
Barbara Ashby had better luck—she was one of the first in line. Ashby has been frequenting Market Lunch once a week for two decades; some days she comes for breakfast and some for lunch. When the market burned, she said, “I came over and cried.”
Ashby ordered only an iced tea, but she looks forward to perching at the long counter this weekend with her favorite lunch, soft-shell crab.
Cheese merchant Mike Bowers is thrilled to be back in the old building. All of the vendors returned to the same locations they’d occupied before the fire. Bowers and the other merchants worked with the city to redesign their workspace. Bowers’s Fancy Dairy Products has new glass display cases and a walk-in freezer, among other improvements.
Today, Bowers said, he saw lots of regulars. He added that his grandfather opened the shop in 1964, so many of his customers have known him since childhood.
“This is like a homecoming,” he said. “It’s just a really good feeling to come back to Eastern Market and once again be a part of the community in here.”