True Lancastrians have something of a code when it comes to talking about shopping for fresh produce, baked goods, juice, coffee, candy, snacks, and more at Central Market in the heart of Downtown Lancaster.
They say, “meet me at Market.”
This simple invitation means so much more than you might think since it’s actually somewhat difficult to describe everything that Central Market is.
Sure, it’s a meticulously preserved historic market house building that still operates every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday (since 1730!) where a plethora of unique vendors ply their wares to visitors and residents alike, but it’s so much more.
The Market’s Facebook page puts it like this: “it’s a shopping place where people gather to socialize,” but it’s also “a gathering, socializing place where people shop for great food.” In short, Central Market is an experience—and a routine for many—that’s deeply rooted in Lancaster’s very identity.
Central Market’s Long History in Lancaster
It’s true that there are many other farmer’s markets in Lancaster County—such as Root’s and Green Dragon—but for centuries, there has only been one that locals simply call “Market.”
The Central Market that we know and love today—situated in a circa 1889 Romanesque revival edifice that was built to make the public market competitive with privately-owned rival organizations that had cropped up in the mid-19th century—grew from modest beginnings around 1730. In fact, the market existed before Lancaster was even chartered as a borough (in 1742), and its existence may have actually been what convinced the English monarchy to literally put Lancaster on the map!
Much has been written about Market’s history over time, and we definitely recommend checking out some of the many books available, including Central Market: Cornerstone of the Lancaster Community by Linda Aleci, as well as one of Lancaster County’s best-loved cookbooks: The Lancaster Central Market Cookbook by Phyllis Good. After all, why just read about Lancaster history when you can recreate its favorite recipes?
Ensuring a Vibrant Future
Since 2005, Central Market has been managed by a nonprofit organization known as the Central Market Trust, which formed to assist the City of Lancaster with responsible stewardship of the building. Perhaps more importantly, the Trust manages long-range planning as well as regular operations of the Market today. (Lancaster City still owns the building.)
The partnership between the City and the Trust has allowed many improvement projects to be done on the now 130-year-old building. A major, multi-year renovation project wrapped up in 2011, which improved lighting and air circulation in the building, as well as restored some important historical characteristics to the building that had been modified in the 20th century. The planning process that went into these renovations, as well as the work itself won many historic preservation awards.
More recently, the Central Market building’s worn asphalt roof was replaced entirely with more historically-appropriate slate tiles. That project just finished up in early 2019.
Notable Market Stands You Can’t Miss
So, enough about the history of Central Market—what about the “main event”—the food?!
You can indeed find just about anything you might want to eat at Market—from fresh tossed salads to seafood to a variety of Greek, Asian, and other international specialties. Want fresh-squeezed juices? You’ll find those at Market. How about handmade pet treats? Your four-legged friends will be happy to know they’re also available!
Don’t miss these “famous” market stands. (Or the scores more, including several selling arts, crafts, flowers, and gifts!)
- Wendy Jo’s Homemade
- The Goodie Shop
- Clyde Weaver
- Pretzels on Market
- Mr. Bill’s Fresh Seafood
- Meck’s Produce
- Long’s Horseradish
- Lancaster County Coffee Roasters
- Kauffman’s Fruit Farm
- Central Market Juice Company
- Barr’s Farm Produce
And Don’t Forget About Harvest Breakfast!
Each October, Lancaster Central Market celebrates the local farming traditions that both created it and sustain it. The annual Harvest Breakfast—happening this year on Saturday, October 5, 2019, from 8AM – 12PM—captures the true spirit of Market and what it means to this community. To really understand what locals mean when they ask you to meet them at Market, simply come out and experience the festival atmosphere at Harvest Breakfast!
Want to Make Central Market a Weekly Shopping Stop?
If you want to become a “regular” at Central Market and our other fantastic local farmers’ markets, it’s time to plan your move to America’s #1 place to retire! And this fall is your perfect opportunity!
Our Explore Retirement Living Open House—now in its 9th year—takes place on Saturday, October 19, 2019, from 10AM to 4PM at our 18 different member Continuing Care (CCRC) and Life Plan retirement communities! Stop off for coffee and some baked goodies at Central Market first thing, and then head to your favorite communities for tours, information sessions, and a fantastic opportunity to explore!