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Lancaster Central Market: Historic and Social

[Web Ed. Note: Photo gallery of Central Market]

Constructed in 1889, the Central Market is the oldest surviving farmers’ market in the country and features about sixty stands with various types of produce and other goods.

According to Michael Ervin, the market manager of the Central Market since April 1 of this year, since 1730 there have always been farmers’ markets in Lancaster City.

However, most of these first farmers’ markets were simply “curb markets”; farmers would sell their goods in-season from horse-drawn wagons.

Built and owned by the city of Lancaster, the Central Market building was designed by James H. Warner with a “Romanesque Revival” style that is reminiscent of the previous buildings he had designed, which were mostly churches.

According to the city of Lancaster’s website, the Central Market is quite large with 20,000 square feet of interior market space and thirteen double doors.

Ervin strives to maintain the noble goal of the historic Central Market which is “to provide fresh goods and produce, and other market goods, to the people who live in Lancaster County.”

One thing that is not the main goal of the market is to become a tourist attraction.
“We provide fresh, local produce for the people who live here,” said Ervin. “Our emphasis is and always has been on fresh produce that you take home.”

Not only are these products fresh and locally grown, they are also reasonably priced, a highly appreciated quality for student shoppers.

The Central Market sees many students from not only Millersville University, but Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster College of Art and Design as well.
“Our prices are right and we’re easily accessible by public transportation,” said Ervin.
MU students can easily get the bus from campus to Queen Street in Lancaster and walk the short distance to the Central Market on Market Street, which is about a block.

Senior Kim Banzhoff has visited the Central Market twice, her favorite part of the market being the fresh produce, her least favorite part being the disorganization of the market’s layout.

“I love the markets, getting the fresh fruits and meats,” said Banzhoff.

Zach Nelson, a senior, has also visited the farmers’ market.

“I thought it was cool,” said Nelson. “I think you can purchase a lot of different stuff from the different vendors.”

The Central Market offers flowers, baskets, hand-painted ornaments, candles, and other gift items in addition to their food products.

Besides the historical qualities and exceptional produce offered at the market, Ervin says that the Central Market provides a very social, friendly atmosphere that draws people in to shop.

“We’re more of an institution, a family,” said Ervin.

The Happy Birthday song is even sung to stand owners and operators for their birthdays.
“I love the Central Market because it’s just so great relationally,” said Lynn Walker, an owner of the Amish Family Recipes stand at the market. “The atmosphere at Central Market is just amazing, it’s historical.”

Crystal Weaver, owner of the Simply Sweet candy stand at the market, also enjoys the family-oriented theme of the Central Market.

“I think the cool thing about market that’s different about the supermarket is you get to know people,” said Weaver. “It makes working here a lot of fun.”

Typically, the market caters to about 3,000 people per week, with most of those people frequenting the market on Saturday.

Business hours are Tuesdays and Fridays, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Currently, all of the stands take cash as payment, with few of the stands taking credit or debit cards.

With renovations taking place next year for the market, more phone lines will be added allowing for the use of credit cards. New electric and plumbing, a roof, brick work, more rest rooms, additional heating units and air tempering units to provide cooler temperatures in hot weather are also part of the renovations. These improvements are to total $7 million.