Personally, I’m Optimistic

Back in 2009, when I arrived in Harrisburg, I immediately felt at home inside the Broad Street Market.

I had come from Washington, D.C., from the Capitol Hill neighborhood, so was accustomed to shopping in that city’s then-only public market—Eastern Market.

Generally speaking, I hate shopping, but loved the market experience: the beautiful old building, the community vibe, the personal nature of buying goods from someone, as opposed to from something—a soulless corporation.

I realized that I’m the type of person who wants to know where my beef comes from, where my peaches are grown, how my cheese is made. I want to get to know—and even become friends with—the folks selling me yogurt and chicken and heads of lettuce.

I’m not the kind of person who wants to wheel a cold metal cart through a cold, bleak aisle.

In Harrisburg, I was able to re-create what I had left behind in D.C. In fact, sacrilege, but I soon felt a stronger connection to the Broad Street Market than I ever did to Eastern Market.

On the downside, things weren’t going so well for either market or for me at the time. We both were a little down and out.

The market was struggling financially, struggling with vendors, with customers, with the health code. Likewise, I was struggling, having uprooted myself from my long-time home with some bizarre notion of starting a newspaper in Harrisburg, Pa.

But, thanks to this community, things would turn around for both of us.

Harrisburg began to revive, and the market, under stronger leadership, did too. New vendors opened and customers increased. In 2016, I wrote a column for TheBurg called “Stocked Market,” in which I heralded the surprising and sudden revival of the Broad Street Market.

“This market is rocking!” Ryan Hummer, owner of RG Hummer Meats and Cheese, told me at the time. And, yup, it sure was.

I found myself, well, hanging out there. I regularly grabbed coffee at Elementary, a donut at Evanilla, lunch in the stone building.

I often met friends in the market. My fondest market memories came during 3rd in the Burg, when, for about two years, a group of us settled into a happy routine. We’d gather for “free wine” at Radish & Rye, venture down to JB Kelly’s for appetizer oysters, then cross the courtyard for a Zeroday beer and pizza or burgers or tacos.

The market’s renewal, and mine, seemed to go hand in hand.

Unfortunately, the good times wouldn’t last. The pandemic robbed us of so much joy, shattering our routines, our traditions. As we suffered, so did the market, and now, the fire has further cast doubt over our collective future.

Personally, I’m optimistic. It’s still early days, but, so far, I applaud the rapid response from city and state officials, including some who needed to be reminded just how important the Broad Street Market is to this community. 

It may not be an easy two-plus years until the brick building is fully restored. But I can imagine a day when the ribbon is cut and those heavy wooden doors are opened again. I promise, I’ll be there with hot coffee and a fresh donut, with a renewed spirit and restored confidence for our shared fate.

Lawrance Binda is publisher and editor of TheBurg.