If you walk into the new San Diego Public Market, which just opened September 12 in Barrio Logan, you might feel a twinge of disappointment. I did, when Steve and I visited just as the place was opening this morning. The gap between what the founders envision and the current reality is substantial. But even a short stroll around the premises made me want to withhold further judgment — to wait and see how it all develops. I think the market could become a magnet for both city residents and tourists alike, and if it does, it could vault Barrio Logan into the ranks of the city’s hottest neighborhoods.
What the entrepreneurial food mavens Catt White and Dale Steele envision is an indoor space that will rival some of the world’s great urban food markets: think Pike Place in Seattle or London’s Borough Market or La Boqueria in Barcelona. Already, close to 60 farmer’s markets operate throughout San Diego County, but none is a permanent fixture. Even the best (Carlsbad, La Jolla, Hillcrest) only exist for a few hours on a single day of the week. White, who manages farmer’s markets in Little Italy, Pacific Beach, and North Park, and her business partner Steele dreamt of a giant food hall, open every day and showcasing not only fresh produce but also theatrical displays of cheese-making, salami-curing, bread-baking, chocolate-tempering, coffee-roasting artisans at work. They reportedly tried for years to find the right spot (at one point targeting, but failing to secure, the former San Diego Police Headquarters next to Seaport Village) before deciding to renovate a 92,000-square-foot warehouse at 1735 National Avenue, just a few blocks from Chicano Park. To raise the $92,000 they would need for permits, equipment, and contractors, they launched a Kickstarter.com campaign last month. In just two weeks, they not only reached their goal but went on to secure a total of more than $146,000 from almost 1,400 supporters.
For the moment, it’s just a farmer’s market, open only two days a week (Sundays and Wednesdays, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
Moreover, the former warehouse is cavernous, and while dozens of vendors were present this morning, there’s a lot of empty space. It’s not crackling with activity, and that’s what initially made me feel let down.
But, strolling the aisles, I found avocados, oranges, pomegranates, apples, grapes, pluots, plums, peaches, chickens (from two vendors), eggs, passionfruit, dates, jam, figs, limes, apples, squash, celery, greens, cheese, honey, peppers, flowers, several suppliers of olive and avocado oil, crackers, soups, dips, sushi, lemonade, crepes, Carlsbad mussels, eggplants, breads and other baked goods, gourmet tamales, natural pet supplies, beauty products, woven baskets, handmade soap and bath products, and more — in short, just about anything that you could need to get dinner on the table.
Surely lots of downtown residents will begin flocking here in short order. From the East Village to the warehouse is just a short stroll, if one that not many people currently make. As the spaces fill in and the market becomes a true landmark, it’s easy to find that tourists will be drawn here too for a taste of the local bounty.