At 40, the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market is looking to renovate and expand
A café, farm store, event space and moving to 2 days a week are in the plans
The Old Strathcona Farmers' Market, a staple of Edmonton's Saturday shopping scene for 40 years, is looking to renovate and expand.
"What we're going to do is turn the building into a hub," says Keith Persaud, manager of the market that opened in 1983.
The expansion and renovations would allow the market to operate on Fridays, instead of just on Saturdays, with some areas of the building open even more.
"We want to put a café up front so that people can come in anytime during the week, on the weekends, in the evenings, and have a meal, have a glass of wine," Persaud says.
The building, just off Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard, is a former transit garage owned by the City of Edmonton.
The non-profit is in the middle of securing funding and finalizing another lease agreement but "if everything goes according to plan," Persaud says construction would start next January.
The market would remain open during the renovation.
Persaud pegs the price tag for the project, which would include work on the heating, plumbing and electrical systems, at around $7 million. The funding would need to come from public and private sources.
WATCH | Take a stroll in the market and learn about the expansion plans:
You can see more from the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market on this week's edition of Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. on Monday.
Kevin Zellweger, a baker with The Quarter Section Food Co., is president of the market's board of directors.
"It's very humbling to have 140 businesses put their trust in you to expand this market," Zellweger says.
He says there's so much potential in a renovated space that would also have a store stocked with items from market vendors.
"It will be a true farm-to-table store."
In 2018 he landed a spot to sell his cookies, croissants and bread. It meant the difference between taking a second job or not.
"Our business supports us on the farm, and this wouldn't have been possible without this market," he says.
With expansion plans ramping up he says there's a buzz about the future. At the same time, he adds, "We owe a lot to the founders of this market."
Doug Lyseng with Maplewood Acres is one of those original farmers who recall the early days at the outdoor market selling produce out of the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot.
Then they moved into the former bus garage, which wasn't weatherproof and still had an industrial feel.
"In the building itself we had great big pits where the buses were changing their oil, prior to us using it.
"We had plywood overtop and every once and a while someone would back in onto the plywood and down they'd go."
Lyseng says tow trucks were called several times before the pits were filled in during the market expansion in the 1990s.
He says the new renovation and being open on Friday will be "awesome."
"The two days are going to be amazing," says Josie Dib of Sweet Mezza Lebanese Bakery. "It's going to help business."
Dib opened her stall at the market during the pandemic. She sells salads, dips and breads.
"I'm representing the culture and cuisine and I'm trying to bring something new and unique to the farmers' market with my bakery," she says.
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Dib is excited to be a part of the future of what she calls a "beautiful community.
"This market has really given me an opportunity to shine."