Detroit Eastern Market
Each week as many as 40,000 people flock to Eastern Market for its Saturday Market to enjoy one of the most authentic urban adventures in the United States. The market and the adjacent district are rare finds in a global economy - a local food district with more than 250 independent vendors and merchants processing, wholesaling, and retailing food.
At the heart of Eastern Market is a six-block public market that has been feeding Detroit since 1891. Every Saturday it is transformed into a vibrant marketplace with hundreds of open-air stalls where everyone from toddlers to tycoons enjoy the strong conviviality served up along with great selections of fruits, veggies, fresh-cut flowers, homemade jams, maple syrups, locally produced specialty food products, pasture and/or grass-fed meat and even an occasional goose or rabbit.
Come on down and join the fiesta. Devour the great bounty of Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario harvests, find paradise in the dazzling array of plants and flowers, and relish the rich history and colorful stories of the market and its characters.
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Johnny and Maurina Gyergyov
J & M Farm
When approaching J & M Farm's stall at Eastern Market, the first thing you'll likely notice is Johnny Gyergyov's smile, followed by a warm greeting. One would anticipate a proprietor of this nature when visiting the Farm's website where it declares "We raise happy hogs!"
When Johnny unexpectedly lost his job of 22 years they were forced to turn a once part-time endeavor to a now full-time venture, capable of supporting their family. Maurina and Johnny Gyergyov's family owned and operated farm became their sole source of employment in 1994.
Their beginning was simple, a home on one acre with a little barn. Next came a few baby chicks and a little tractor to push snow from the driveway. Soon they had sectioned off part of the barn for two steers; by then Johnny had caught the farming bug. With little to no experience under their belts they read books, went to numerous seminars, and picked the brain of every farmer who was willing to share their knowledge. They begged a neighbor to their west for five acres and another neighbor to their east for two, which included a huge barn. Once they acquired this land they had what they needed to expand and build facilities for housing all their planned livestock. Maurina suggested that they try raising pigs, as steers took so long to get to market weight. From that moment on, they've concentrated on raising high-quality hogs.
While they didn't begin farming full-time until 94', they began raising hogs more than 10 years earlier in 1983. J & M Farm's premier product is their home-grown, hormone- and antibiotic-free pork. The hogs are played country music 24 hours a day and are raised in strict accordance to Michigan Pork Producer guidelines. The Gyergyovs raise chickens and a small amount of cattle as well. Not only do they raise pigs, they cook them too. They will roast pigs for pick-up or bring their mobile roaster to a customer requested location.
The Gyergyovs have been selling in Eastern Market's Shed 3 since November of 2008, where they offer their own farm raised products as well as brown farm-fresh eggs, BBQ sauce, seasoning, Michigan maple syrup, honey, rabbit, pheasant, duck, and smoked dog treats, all produced locally by other farmers in their area. Johnny was sure to mention that in addition to the above products, they offer "lots of smiles."
Margi Schneider and Chuck Knowles
Margi Schneider and Chuck Knowles can be found most Saturdays browsing the stalls and stores of the Eastern Market neighborhood. They have specific goals to meet when shopping to stock the galley on their live aboard boat. That's right, you read correctly; they reside year round on a boat docked in the Metro Detroit area.
Margi and Chuck visit Eastern Market about 3 times a month. A typical shopping trip for them includes stops at The Market sheds for fresh produce, Rocky Peanut Company, R Hirt Jr, Capital Poultry, S & D Packing, and J & M Farms (located in Shed 5) for all their pork needs. This is a wonderful illustration of one of their favorite things about Eastern Market, the broad product offering.
After spending just a few minutes talking with Chuck and Margi it becomes clear that they truly love The Market. When asked what they like about spending time here, they have no shortage of reasons. They mentioned the personable and knowledgeable farmers/vendors/store owners, availability of local ingredients, and the opportunity to experience the flavor of the city, amongst others.
Margi and Chuck cite many reasons for their choice to shop at Eastern Market rather than the large chain grocery stores. They believe the food they purchase here is fresher and tastier. Chuck prefers to buy "potatoes that still have the dirt on them." For this couple, the soil of the earth signifies the authenticity of the product and provides assurance that they're purchasing directly form the source. Secondly, they are able to find better prices and value within The Market stalls. Thirdly, they can avoid much of the extraneous packaging that is found at the big box stores. Finally, they experience a sense of community that is difficult to find when shopping at other places.
For anyone else out there that may be stocking their galley, Margi recommends devising a plan prior to venturing out to shop. She takes an inventory of what they presently have on hand and takes note of their available pantry space. With limited storage room on the vast majority of boats out there, she recommends also trying to plan when you will eat the products you purchase. Take into account the fact that fruits and vegetables will ripen quicker under no refrigeration; something that is also in short supply on their sea-bearing vessel.
Chuck and Margi have transitioned to a more local and seasonal diet as a result of shopping at Eastern Market. Margi has been canning pickles, peaches, and making apple sauce. By purchasing these products at the peak of their season she is able to preserve and enjoy their optimum flavor throughout the long Michigan winters on the water.
3401 Via Roma (Riopelle)
Detroit, MI 48207
Corner of Erskine and Riopelle
The Marazza family opened their doors to Eastern Market farmers in February of 1890. It began as a boarding house, with each guest's stay including a warm meal. Mrs. Marazza's reputation as a fine cook spread quickly throughout the Eastern Market area. At the urging of her fans, she expanded service and opened her restaurant, the Roma Cafe.
In 1918, the business was sold to Mr. John Battaglia and Mr. Morris Sossi. As they began their partnership an addition was put on the building, which still exists in its original condition to this day. Within one year John Battaglia died and Morris Sossi bought out his widow and became the sole owner of the Roma Cafe.
Morris Sossi's nephew, Hector Sossi, began working as a busboy for his uncle in 1940. In the early 1950's Morris returned to his native Italy and left the management to his Hector. Hector Sossi carried on the family tradition and bought out Morris in 1965 to become the fourth owner of the Roma Cafe.
Mr. Sossi remains at the helm at Roma's as a third generation family member owner. His daughter, Janet Sossi Belcoure, currently handles the management of this historic Italian eatery.
Roma Cafe and its history still reside at their original 1888 location, serving up Italian favorites to a whole new generation of Detroiters. The menu includes classic dishes including gnocchi, homemade ravioli Genovese, polenta, veal Parmigiana, baked cannelloni, and many more. They are open Monday- Friday from 11 am - 10 pm, Saturdays from 11 am - 11 pm, and are closed on Sundays.