Historic Eastern Market Begins Its 120th Year

Posted on January 22, 2011 - 1:33 pm

by Ed Deeb

Before Eastern Market located to its current site, it was located in Detroit's downtown area where the current bus terminal is, west of Woodward. The Market moved to its present site in 1891 and has operated here since, or for 120 years.

Today Eastern Market is a bustling shopping area for all types of food, meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and an entire variety of things all in one area. With the renovation and revitalization taking place at the Market and in the Detroit area, we're getting better all the time.

It was not always hustling and bustling however.   With the end of World War II in 1945, along with the service men and women returning home, and the advent of the supermarket which started to stock all types of food products in the store,  Eastern Market lost some popularity.   In addition the I-375 Freeway cutting a path through the market near Gratiot and Russell. It eliminated former Shed No. 1 after which a parking lot replaced it between the R.Hirt, Jr. Co. on Market Street and Rocky Peanut Company on Russell.

Eastern Market Corporation hosted its annual Vendor Appreciation Dinner last month just before Christmas.  After the dinner six vendors who have been at the Market for 40 or more years were honored.  They were:  Butchy Odrobina, Byron Sell, Don Everett, Byron Green, Mark Kaltz and Eric Smith.  Congratulations to these fine vendors and all the vendors who operate at Eastern Market!  Also everyone sang happy 90th birthday to Lawrence Zienert.

Dan Carmody and a group of agriculture recently came back from a tour of Spain and Italy.   Dan told me it was remarkable how advanced the farmers Markets were in those countries.  In many cases, they were far more progressive in displaying and selling fruits, vegetables and meats than some areas in the U.S.   He also mention the countries are beautiful and he thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

Formidable key tasks for the Eastern Market area:  Leverage assets to build a model urban food system; Revitalize the Eastern Market district;

Re-build the Market campus;

expand market operations.

What follows is a re-cap.

National Model Urban Food Hub.     As national interest in local food has exploded, Detroit is well positioned to build a new model to demonstrate how local food systems can help repair center city economies, diets, and aesthetics.

In Eastern Market, Detroit has the largest remaining local food district with food processing, distribution, and retail businesses.  The area east of Eastern Market has been largely demolished and has attracted serious interest from a variety of investors to build demonstration projects experimenting with a wide variety of agricultural production techniques.


Such an Urban Food Hub would integrate food production, distribution, retailing, education, and waste management to grow, process, distribute, and consume healthier and fresher food while employing more people at living wages and making Detroit and other areas more attractive as places to live, visit and/or invest.  This could include:

  • A market hall in place of current Shed 4 with a community kitchen for cooking classes, an education center, build and supply healthier food
  • Creation of a Fresh Food Network
  • Streetscape improvements
  • Parking system overhaul
  • A Growers Terminal
  • Mobile Food Trucks
  • Farm to School Programs
  • Food Voucher Program
  • Catering operations


Friends of Eastern Market Campaign.  If you are not a  Member of the Friends of Eastern Market, now's the time to join.  Contact Kimberly Hill At 313 833-9300 to hear how you can be part of the Market.



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