Columbus, Ohio USA
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Market Celebrates 10 Years
in the Advanced Thresher Warehouse
By Mary Martineau
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Fifteen of the 34 businesses in the market house today can recall the opening of the market in the renovated Advanced Thresher Warehouse in November 1995. A Touch of Earth (1990), Benevolence, A Bakery (1986), Better Earth (1991), Bluescreek Farm Meats (1993), Curds & Whey (1988), Flavors of India (1991), Gatterdam Eggs (1916), Grapes of Mirth (1992), Heil’s Family Deli (1954), Market Blooms (1990), Pastaria (1993) and Sarefino’s (1993) were transplants from the market in the Quonset Hut. Bob “The Fish Guy,” Firdous Express and North Market Poultry & Game opened as new ventures in the refurbished building in 1995.
The World War II surplus Quonset Hut had housed the North Market since 1948 after the original building at 29 Spruce Street burned down, but the structure was in an ever-deteriorating condition. Concern for the continuation of North Market led to the formation of the North Market Development Authority in the late ‘80s to “preserve and promote the traditional and cultural aspects of the historic North Market.” Nationwide Insurance sold the City of Columbus the former Advanced Thresher farm implements building in 1992. One major capital campaign and one $5 million renovation later and the North Market as we know it today reopened for business in November 1995.
Alex Kushkin and Wayne Heil
Wayne Heil is the merchant who has been on market for the longest continuous period of time. In 1954 Wayne got his start in the salad manufacturing business (potato salad, coleslaw and other deli salads). In the ‘60s he was the biggest salad manufacturer between New York and Chicago. He employed 15 folks a day who churned out 10,000 pounds of salad a week that Wayne sold to wholesalers all over the state. In January of 1969 Wayne bought out another deli owner at the Quonset Hut and put up his shingle as Heil’s Family Deli. He reminisces about the old space where he claims they “spilled more salad on the floor than we sell here.” Nonetheless, the deli salads are still made by hand with his recipes, and 65 pounds of his “famous potato salad” walks out the door daily (at a dollar a pound you can imagine why)! Wayne sold the business to Alex Kushkin in January of 2003, yet he still maintains a nearly constant presence at the North Market. He helps run the place as a “part-timer” putting in 70 hours per week while simultaneously claiming not to know a thing about the food business – except that 50-year stint in deli foods, of course.
Gatterdam Eggs is the North Market’s oldest business. It has been “on market” (as the regulars say) since 1916 when original proprietress Dorothy Gatterdam opened her stall in the Central Market (the site of today’s Greyhound bus station). She transplanted the business to the North Market when the Central Market was demolished in 1965 and made a second jump when the Quonset Hut closed.
Bill Thompson has managed Gatterdam’s for 11 years. His “affiliation” with Dorothy’s niece brought him to the market, and he has maintained the stall since Dorothy passed away seven years ago. Bill’s true expertise lies in vacuum cleaner sales, service and repair. He’s got 60-years experience in that field and a shop that he operates full-time on Parsons Avenue. Hence, the long-running “honor system” at the Gatterdam Eggs stall – you put your cash in the lock box and take your eggs. The system works like a charm as Bill sells 400-500 dozen eggs a week! You can meet Bill in person on Saturdays when he faithfully occupies the egg stand to see his regular customers. “I’ve got so many great customers that I don’t know their names, just their friendly faces, but they are what keeps me going!”
The existence of a flower shop in the North Market has been a longstanding tradition. Marty McGreevy acquired the business from the previous owner in 1990 when the North Market was still housed in the Quonset Hut. She started as a regular customer who patronized the market every weekend and saw the potential to expand upon the existing flower stand. When the North Market made the move from the Quonset Hut to its current location, market management wanted visitors to be greeted with a fresh, colorful product at the main entrance. Today’s shoppers are welcomed with vibrant produce and flowers as they have been since the first day the market occupied the building. Ten years ago, a friend of Bob Mangia’s came to Market Blooms for flowers for her wedding. Marty tried to hire the bride and wound up with Bob, former owner of Bellisimo Flowers in the Short North, becoming the manager instead. Market Blooms has grown over the years to occupy two stalls overflowing with multihued flora. They take great pride in supplying Columbus with buckets of their signature hand-tied bouquets made fresh all day. Bob and Marty love the customers who have become like family over the years. One of their favorites is Thea, who brings them cookies every Saturday and a jelly jar full of egg yolks for their dogs because she can’t be worried about the cholesterol.
Nasir Latif and Abudl Aburmaieleh
Nasir Latif built the reputation of Firdous Express one satisfied customer at a time. He opened his first Firdous restaurant on campus in 1986 and closed it in the mid ‘90s as Campus Partners was initiating its Gateway Project. He saw great potential in the new market building and humbly “applied and was accepted” to occupy a stall in the building offering his Mediterranean cuisine. Nasir and his business thrived at the new market where they gained an abundance of loyal new customers for lunch from neighboring downtown office buildings. Nasir decided to retire this summer and focus on the catering aspect of the business. He entrusted Firdous Express to the capable hands of former employee, Abdul Aburmaieleh. Abdul’s first job in Ohio was working at the original Firdous at High Street and 9th from 1989-1992. He and Nasir have kept in touch all of these years and Abdul has occasionally helped Nasir with special events. Abdul loves the environment and atmosphere of the North Market. Our quirky Ohio weather brings him fond memories of Seattle (home to another significant public market). He intends to maintain the success of Firdous at the North Market and is thrilled to be a part of this Columbus institution.
Cheryl and David Smith
Cheryl and David Smith of Bluescreek Farm Meats came to the North Market “by accident.” They own and operate their farm in Marysville where they raise their own cattle, lambs, pigs and goats which are later sold as prime cuts. David wanted to open a meat store as his beef is “too good to sell the traditional way” (wholesale). He and Cheryl picked up a flier at the Ohio Roadside Marketing Convention and discovered that a meat store at the old market had closed. Hence, in 1993 the Bluescreek Farm Meat stand was opened. The Smiths are widely revered by their fellow merchants. They are “the mom and pop” of the place and their approval is sought before any major decisions affecting the merchants are made. They are very fond of their customers whom they believe are better than anywhere else they could be operating. Cheryl and David have enjoyed having their kids on market. Daughter Jamie, 18, worked at the stand until she went to college this fall. Son, Cody, 13, makes regular appearances, but isn’t on the clock quite yet. They track their time by how many customers who used to come in as kids now bring their own children to the market and the tradition is passed. They really love it when the parents tell them how their kids have become biased towards the market experience and “if it doesn’t come from the North Market, then my kids turn their noses up at it!”
Don Ziliak is the merchant who may lay claim to the title “the Godfather of the North Market.” His Italian heritage (and name) aside, Don and his wife, Carolyn, along with his brothers Joe and Rick, own Pastaria, Sarefino’s and Pastaria Seconda giving them the trifecta of successful market stands. Not bad for a guy who started with “$300 and a freezer to store bread in my garage.” After getting his MBA, Don went into business selling bread to grocery stores and restaurants for a cousin who had a bakery in Chicago. When the guy who owned Pastaria got into debt over bread Don had sold him, Don acquired Pastaria “the old-fashioned way”….he “inherited” it! That was in 1993. In 1995 he bought Sarefino’s (which had opened in the old market in 1993), and in 1998 he opened Pastaria Seconda. His brothers, at various times, have helped him run the different market stands, making it a family affair. Don enjoys the daily parade of customers through the market. He sees artists, celebrities, band members and folks from all walks of life. Some regulars even earn their own titles, like “Tiramisu Man” who comes in for a slice of the dessert just about daily. “The cast of characters around here, to me, that’s the North Market.”
Mike Kast was fittingly referred to as “the Donald of the Market” by one of its longtime employees. He, at different points in time, has been owner of Curds and Whey (1988, his original and remaining business), Grapes of Mirth (started in 1992 and later sold to an employee) and Best of the Wurst (started in 1996 and later sold to another merchant). Like many merchants he was a customer of the North Market (for 15 years) before becoming one of the gang. He befriended Ed Malzone, the man with the cheese shop in the Quonset Hut while he was working at the Limited. One day Ed asked him if he wanted to go into business. Mike was an employee for one week before he bought the shop. Shortly thereafter he left the Limited and started working seven days on market. It must have been the right decision since he’s been here 18 years. Over the years he has enjoyed learning from his customers, watching them grow and their tastes evolve. He too recalls with fondness (?) the climate of the former market building. “I think I still have some of that extra heavyweight clothing I used to layer on in the winter!”
Annmarie Wong with her child
Annmarie Wong started out as an employee of Curds and Whey at the Quonset Hut. When one of the poultry shops wasn’t making the move, this young, self-proclaimed “naïve,” vegetarian saw her opportunity and elevated her status to “owner” of North Market Poultry and Game. She’s the first to admit that back then she didn’t know a thing about chicken and had to have a customer show her how to cut one up when they first opened. Her space was a paltry corner with a counter and a cart compared to the spacious digs the enterprise now occupies. The market is the source of good things for Annmarie. In addition to a business it brought her love. Annmarie met husband, Jerry Bullock when she worked at the cheese shop. “He haunted me and everybody would tease me about him,” she recalls. His persistence paid off. First he convinced her to walk their dogs together. Today, Annmarie affectionately “blames him” for the determination to open North Market Poultry and Game. “It was just silliness! We opened a poultry shop the week of Thanksgiving…I was totally overwhelmed.” Annmarie and Jerry have been together for 11 years and have two adorable kids that they look forward to seeing grow up at the North Market.
Bob Reany was a partner in Marine Fisheries in Great Neck, New York, before he moved to Columbus. He was uncertain about the potential to open a fish shop in the Quonset hut, but when he saw the plans for the new building, he was sold. Bob “The Fish Guy” opened just a few months after the renovated North Market building did in 1995. He likes the action at the North Market and the diversity of the customers. “That’s why I opened a business here. If I went somewhere else it just wouldn’t work.” He shares a favorite characteristic about the North Market with other merchants, the characters who visit, work and shop here. “If I ever left, I’d miss the guy with the suspenders and gloves, oh, and Jerry’s eyebrows!”
Larry and Nancy Henry visited a fall festival at the old market and “fell in love with the last gasp of authentic, old-fashioned retail.” They started selling their produce outside at the farmers’ market, then graduated to a knife and kitchenware booth inside the building that they transformed into an ethnic gift and art shop called Mill Creek Farm. Two years later (1986) they bought the bakery next door. When the Quonset Hut came down, the bakery moved to the new building and eventually was renamed Benevolence. The gift shop became Benevolence Café adjacent to the market. As coincidence would have it, on the same day in 2004 that the Henrys decided to retire and informed North Market management that they would not be renewing their lease, along came Kevin Ayres looking for a business opportunity. Kevin was a seasoned customer of the market as well as a supplier. Known as “the wine guy,” he had been a distributing representative who worked with Grapes of Mirth and desired to own a place where he could use his cooking and baking skills. Drawn by the sense of tradition, Kevin took over Benevolence and joined the community of North Market merchants. Nancy Henry gives the most poignant description of the most memorable aspect of the Quonset Hut. “Oh god, the people. It was like a community, a tribe. They – the customers – came from all over the city and entered this organic chaos of an old shell of a building. They would shove up an eating table against your stand and talk, and eat just a foot from your register, and crowd through the dingy halls with smiles on their faces and produce in bags. It was therapy for everyone. Some of the best and brightest people in the city came every Saturday morning. “At the bakery it was so bustling – people got there early in large crowds. You had to be ready. It was the best time of my life. The merchants...they were so authentic. No one told them to smile and say thank you. Some were surly, some were penny-pinching, many were still talking in their home accents, some were benevolent – they would give you extras in your bag of whatever you bought. Dorothy Gatterdam, Lucy (Ines Lusignolo). How I loved them. They were real people, no acts, no performances. The rent was so cheap (a quarter of what it was when we moved) you didn’t have to be slick to make it, and you didn’t have to be a bookkeeper or know how to file your taxes, or know how to make a display, or market your goods. You just had to work hard and love what you sold. It was the last of the old retail, the old bazaar, the place where there was still a bit of mystery. “It couldn't last. The tides of change sweep on. It was destined to fade away no matter what happened. The new market saved the continuum of history, but nothing in the new could protect the old market place ambience – when retail didn’t mean making money. It meant having a life devoted to the marketplace in the medieval sense of the word. You can tell, I still miss it. Times they change, I witnessed the last of something that lasted longer than it should have in a downtown where every square foot makes and loses fortunes every day. Such is our times. The market is still a very special place, and it is the best the 21st century can offer in a downtown setting. If change had not come, the market would be nothing but a memory.”
Better Earth has been providing marketgoers with eco-conscious products since 1991. Owner, Dareen Wearstler started with a store in Clintonville and thought that the socially aware North Market clientele would be a good fit for her merchandise because all products are selected with consideration to their environmental impact. Better Earth's products are chosen for their earth-friendliness and support of socially just programs. Dareen realized that the educated, aware and caring North Market shoppers would share her values and buy her natural personal care, aromatherapy, cleaning products and locally crafted gift items. This year Dareen added a second space, “Better Earth's Beyond Beads,” a cooperative of four local jewelry makers who work with beads and semi-precious stones to offer an array of accessories and jewelry. Dareen’s fondest memories of the Quonset Hut recall Saturday mornings when everyone was required to be on market at 7 a.m. Merchants, farmers and customers would arrive all “feeling sleepy,” but enjoy each others’ company while sipping coffee and getting ready for the Saturday shoppers.
Raj Brar says he feels like he’s been at the North Market “half my life.” Flavors of India was started by his sister-in-law in 1991 with the help of some advice from Raj who had been in the restaurant and banquet business in New York for a decade. With young kids to raise and a brother in Columbus, Raj and his wife Billan moved here and took over Flavors of India. While he yearns for the shorter days he was able to keep at the Quonset Hut, Raj is very happy with the layout of the newer facilities and the crowds that come to shop here. “This place is so open, I can be cooking in the kitchen and still know what’s going on in the market. This is a good way to enjoy work. I know 70% of the people who come by and we talk. I couldn’t do that at an office or restaurant.” Raj and Billan expanded their business and ethnic food offerings when they opened Sabor Mexicano in 2001. Billan, too, feels like her customers are akin to family. “They always ask how I am doing and if I do not come in every day, they notice that I was gone!”
The wine shop is likely the business in the market to boast the most owners. First there was Bill Platt who opened North Market Wines in 1990. Bill Platt begat Mike Kast who changed the name to Grapes of Mirth in 1992. Mike Kast begat Steve Hamm who finally begat David Bihn. David started like other owners as a market employee. Thirteen years ago he was making pasta for Pastaria. He then became a part-time employee of Grapes of Mirth while holding a full-time position at Stauf’s Coffee Roasters and another gig at a Mexican restaurant. He’s very content with his (single) full-time job as North Market merchant which started when he bought the business in 2003. He too has his share of memorable customers like the World War II veteran who drops by weekly asking if he’s got any free samples. Despite being repeatedly declined on his request, the gentleman never fails to share one of the atomic fireball candies he has stashed in his pocket. David best summarizes the consensus among the merchants that climate in the old Quonset Hut left something to be desired. “Warm or cold it was always ten degrees warmer than it was outside, so in the winter we were freezing and in the summer we were
As the North Market celebrates its 10th anniversary in the Advanced Thresher Warehouse, the merchants are in agreement that they are appreciative of such improved conditions for operating their businesses. But it is clear that the building that houses the market is only one facet of what makes it such a memorable place. There’s also the array of businesses that showcases the diversity of Columbus. But the true heart of the place beats within the merchants, employees and farmers who work at the North Market, and their devotion resonates to the customers, visitors and “characters” who make their pilgrimages, some for the first time, others for weekend shopping or weekday lunches, and a few almost daily to this place that has served as Columbus’ public gathering spot…in whichever site it was occupying at the time…for 129 years.
©2005 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.