by Katharine Cusick
Outside the Market on the Fareway, the rumbling and clanking of construction work mark the progress of a major project: the complete remodeling of the Chestnut Hill Farmer’s Market behind the Chestnut Hill Hotel, 8229 Germantown Ave.
For several months, patrons have had to maneuver around yellow construction tape and increasingly large dirt patches to enter the market. But, according to Eileen Reilly, a marketing and recruitment consultant for the market, “the price that we’re paying for the month of June” will all be in the name of a “fantastic” final product.
By the end of this year, shoppers will be able to peruse literature while eyeing delectable, fresh cupcakes from the Brunettes’ Bookshop Bakery, watch experts from Bacio Italian Restaurante make pasta by hand, and choose from artisan cheeses and charcuterie at The Cheese Trap to create the perfect appetizer board. An influx of new vendors, along with an entirely new look, will breathe fresh life into the Chestnut Hill staple.
The Market on the Fareway – formerly the Chestnut Hill Farmer’s Market – began to undergo major changes in June 2012. The first six months of the project were focused on design and branding, including the name change, a new, modern website and plans for construction and redesign. Since the Fall of 2012, Reilly and her colleagues have concentrated on recruiting new vendors and construction – both inside and outside the market.
“The name change and the website came first in the changes to the market,” Reilly said, “but the real core of the change is the market itself and the outside fairway.”
The market is currently two-thirds of the way finished with the recruiting of new vendors to fill stalls that have been intermittently vacant over the last four years.
“As of September, the market will be about 80 percent filled,” Reilly said.
Along with the recruitment of fresh vendors comes a dynamic new space in which to operate. The alley, which leads from Germantown Avenue back to the market “was always hard to comfortably walk through,”Reilly said, with tables and umbrellas from the Chestnut Grill’s outdoor seating creating a visual and physical barrier. Soon, those umbrellas will be replaced by sailcloth awnings that attach to the buildings on both sides of the alleyway, “creating shade, but also opening up the pathway” back to the market, Reilly said.
The market will also have a completely new look. Thanks to the creative team at CWP Design Studio, a Philadelphia graphic design firm, all shops will be unified with a cohesive design scheme.
“Each stall is similar in aesthetic but still reflects the branding of their business,” Reilly explained. “Existing vendors will go through the same remodeling as the new ones.”
“The whole focus,” she added, “is what will lure the community to this space – what the community would want to see.”
The mission of the market’s makeover is to make it a community destination, where locals might “pull up chairs and hunker down on a Friday night, whether you bring food from one of the restaurants or just come with your dog,” Reilly said.
The entrance to the market will be vastly expanded: Its two small entrance doors will be replaced by a wall of rolling doors (either garage-style or fold-back) that will open onto an extensive new seating area.
Moving inside the market, Reilly said, customers will find a smooth transition from the completely remodeled outdoor seating area to the fresh-faced vendors.
Three new vendors have taken up residence immediately inside the Market’s entrance: Florum Flowers, Poppy Seed Café and The Brunettes’ Bookshop Bakery.
Florum Flowers, which opened in May, is run by Glenside native Melissa Palmer. Palmer owns and operates her own farm in Titusville, N.J., outside of Princeton. She says it is worth the 40-minute drive to Chestnut Hill to be a part of the community experience that is alive at the market.
Using sustainable practices, including a solar-powered, spring-fed irrigation system, Palmer brings seasonal blooms to the market, along with a wealth of knowledge to share with fellow flower enthusiasts. Palmer cited an instance where a man came to her with a problem: black spots on roses in his home garden.
“We sat down and figured out a good way to alleviate that organically, and he was very thankful for that,” Palmer said. “That’s the relationship I want to have with people. I don’t want to be that florist that doesn’t know anybody – I want to have that one-on-one, mom-and-pop relationship with customers.”
The Brunettes’ Bookshop Bakery will open in July and features the “marrying of two passions,” according to Reilly: baking and books. Customers will be able to enjoy freshly baked cupcakes as they peruse bookshelves stacked with contemporary and classic fiction. “B3,” as it is monikered, will also spearhead a market book club.
Two stores have signed to move into the market, and a third is still in the negotiation process.
“With each new addition to the market and the visual stories unfolding, people are starting to call me rather than me going out to recruit,” Reilly said.
The Cheese Trap, originally part of the Flourtown Farmer’s Market, will open a second location at the the Market on the Fareway, providing artisan cheeses and charcuterie.
The Mt. Airy Italian restaurant Bacio will bring an express version of its full restaurant to the Market, making handcrafted, fresh pasta on site.
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