The faces behind your food
If you’ve ever been to Rochester’s public market you’ve seen the richness of the city’s culture. Only a short 30-minute drive from Brockport the market offers a variety of treats, produce and people.
Established in 1827, the market was originally located in what is now known as the downtown area. It was partially built over the Genesee River and served as a wholesale distribution center. In 1905 the market moved locations to Union Street where it now offers local products to the community year-round.
With over 300 vendors, shoppers are sure to find the missing ingredient they didn’t know they were looking for.
“We’ve been coming regularly since we moved here in 2017,” Angie Harbin, a Rochester resident, said. “There’s a variety of produce, we usually come for that. It’s nice, it’s outside; it’s easy to spend a couple hours walking around.”
Growing up on a family farm, Dave Schiek has been making maple syrup since he was a child. After 50 years in the business he is now the sole proprietor of Schiek’s Maple Products. The all-natural maple syrup company based out of Penn Yan has been selling its goods at the Rochester Public Market for roughly 25 years.
“We sell maple syrup, maple cream, granulated maple sugar and sugar shapes,” Schiek said. “We started putting more and more taps out so I needed more market. We started here in Rochester at the public market and in Syracuse at the regional market the same year to see which one would do better, and they did about the same so we kept doing both.
Dave Schiek at his booth; photo credit – Sarah Killip
The syrup is natural and nutritious and customers keep coming back.
“Over the years we’ve got people that are coming here all the time,” Schiek said. “I love interacting with people. You get positive feedback on your product and it’s nice and enjoyable. I’m at a market every weekend.”
Alex Flowers is another vendor that has been farming since he was a child.
“My family’s been doing it for over 50 years,” Flowers said. “It started in Mississippi where we used to work for free as slaves, then we decided we wanted to make some money doing it ‘cause we knew what we were doing, and my family moved up to New York. My dad got a job and a loan and bought a farm.”
After graduating from high school, Flowers joined the army and traveled the world. When he returned home he decided to go into farming full time and soon took over running the family business. Flowers Farm is located in Red Creek, New York and has sold their products at the Rochester Public Market for many years.
“We sell whatever’s in season. Right now it’s beans,” Flowers said. “The customers know me. I have a lot of regulars and it’s very diverse. There’s lots of different people here. It’s a nice place to talk to people for six hours, make a little change and go home happy.”
Left to right: customers at the market; wall art; a vendor bags produce; a shopper enjoys a snack; photo credit – Sarah Killip
Left to right: a child at the market; customers shopping; photo credit – Sarah Killip
Shady Lane Bakery, from Seneca Falls, New York, is another family run business that sells its goods at the public market.
“We sell baked goods; breads, pies, buns, cookies, lots of things,” Henry Swarey said. “My parents did it before I did, we grew up in it. I’ve been doing it for 12 years. Around the public market it’s pretty friendly and we have a lot of regular customers.”
The customers at the market are just as diverse as the vendors. People from all over the world come to visit.
Erick Levick is a regular shopper that goes to the market a handful of times a year.
“This time we’re here with some friends from Africa. My wife wanted to show the students a public market and this is one of the best in the area,” Levick said. “We keep coming back because it’s enjoyable. Prices are good, products are fresh and you meet interesting people here.”
The Rochester Public Market welcomes people from all walks of life. It’s a true reflection of the community.
Left to right: a vendor with local produce; a biker rides through the market; photo credit – Sarah Killip