Originally posted in the Virginia Advocate on Sep. 24, 2013
At the heart of downtown lies the Charlottesville City Market, a popular destination for students and locals alike. Every Saturday from April to December, the market is open to the public from 7 a.m. until noon.
After forty years of service, the Market is still expanding and changing to meet the desires of its growing consumer base. From its humble beginnings as a simple farmers’ market, the business has become a local legend with its unique local items that are sold by an ever-growing number of vendors.
According to its Facebook page, the Charlottesville City Market started in 1973 “with the help of the Cason brothers” as a collective organization for local farmers and vendors. Unfortunately, its inception was met with skepticism and doubt about the Market’s potential. In the Daily Progress, George Cason said, “When we first got it started, the city manager asked my brothers and me if we really thought it would take off.” Within a few years, the critics became silent.
While the Charlottesville City Market has the traditional fare of fruits, vegetables, and other homegrown items, it has recently become a regional center for artists and craftsmen. The heart of the square is always abuzz with melodious guitar strumming, singing, and even dancing. A flow of color meets the eye where vendors add a little artistic creation into their displays of handmade clothing, jewelry, and yarn. One man, Sonny Fletcher, told the Virginia Advocate last year that he has been attending the market with his display of Celtic pottery continually for “over sixteen years.”
Keeping up with the changing population of Charlottesville, the Market now includes many international food vendors. Local residents have kept up their heritage and identity by passing down recipes from their home countries and cooking some truly tantalizing dishes. The “Go Dumplings” food truck stands at the center of it all, although attendees should not pass over the Croatian baklava or Filipino barbecue stand out of unfamiliarity. The latter cooks up lumpia (fried spring rolls) and pork kabobs with sweet barbecue sauce, both of which have become all the rage with visitors over the last several years.
Surprising to even the most passionate customers is the fact that the Market continues to play an important role in helping local business achieve national attention and distribution. According to what Heather Raymond told the Virginia Advocate, the now famous “NoBull”–the barley and lentil veggie patty–began as a stand in the Charlottesville City Market. In a handful of years, the patty spread to restaurants throughout Charlottesville like Bodo’s and Trinity on the Corner; however, places as far away as Baltimore, MD and Middletown, CT now sell “NoBull” as well.
Nevertheless, despite its growth, the market has kept its sense of community and sustainability that it strove to foster since its inception. Local businesses are grateful for the advertising and exposure that the Market has given to their products and services. John Whiteside, the owner of Wolf Creek Farm, told the Virginia Advocate that by talking to consumers about the benefits of eating healthier organic foods like their organic, grass-fed beef, they have been able to further their mission of “keeping the dollars local.”
Students, for their part, also continue to appreciate the unique shopping opportunities at the City Market. Elisabeth Schott, a second-year at the University of Virginia, told the Virginia Advocate that “the farmers’ market is a fantastic way to not only get immediate access to local goods but also take a trip off Grounds . . . . Though the vast spread of vendors is overwhelming at first, exploring the farmers’ market is a Saturday morning well spent.”
To learn more about the City Market, visit www.charlottesvillecitymarket.com.