Meet the Producers of Seattle’s Pike Place Market
January 1, 1970
by Chandni Ojha
Visitor’s Guide to the Historical Farmers Market
Visitors come to Seattle’s historical Pike Place Market for specialty produce, fish, flowers and so much more. This market has been operating for over one hundred years. People come to meet the producers of specialty goods and purchase handmade arts or crafts items at this deluxe, year-round farmers market. I have revisited my favorite establishments on a bustling Spring afternoon in the heart of Seattle, Washington. Several musicians performed on the street, pastry shops sold-out of their best treats, and rows and rows of tulip flowers sold. Fresh steaming hot apple cider was served from the apple farmers. Inside the market, walkways were crowded and groups of people gathered to watch the famous fish throwing. Personally not a fan of the smell, I skipped the giant fish tossing performance and went straight to eating brunch at The Crumpet Shop.
Tea and Crumpets for Brunch
A small shop at Pike Place’s entrance in the Corner Market Building is The Crumpet Shop; a family business that has been running hot for the past forty years. Serving English crumpets fresh off the griddle toasted and slathered with butter. The fine traditional breakfast crumpets are now made Organic. Have them either in a savory or sweet fashion, but they will always be freshly handmade in this shop. The right combination of soft and chewy, spongy and dense, then toasted and topped with butter and your choice of jams, Nutella, cheese, or eggs and ham. Several loose-leaf teas are specialty brewed and ready for self-serve. Alternatively, have a house made hot Chai latte made with organic fresh ginger. The place has so much charm. I happened to be there when the entire shop stopped working and sang “Happy Birthday” to their baker. I was informed that the most famous menu item is the Maple Butter Cream Cheese and Walnut. Well noted for next time, as it is touted as “the life changer” item. With a full belly, I was off to my next favorite stop, the bookstore.
Not your Average Bookshop
Just around the corner, next to a florist is Left Bank Books. Beware as this is not your average store, but Seattle’s famous Anarchist bookshop. Come here to research do-it-yourself techniques, earthly friendly cosmology, anti-patriarchal families, feminist theory, radical books, activism strategy, or the best of science fiction authors, and more. My favorite sections include poets who speak on anti-war in current world conflicts and their selection of zines (self-published and produced mini-magazines). After browsing, I discovered the best reading spot within the store for reading. Follow the steps upstairs and go straight. You will find a few pillows up against the window that looks across First Avenue. From the reading area, I could hear the street musicians play and the rainfall on the roof while sitting aside from the rush of customers to spend a few moments with my selected books. Next stop, flowers.
Washington’s Famous Tulip Flowers
Tulips and Daffodils are how a local knows when Spring season has, finally, arrived in Washington. A few hours drive outside of the city, there is also famous Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in April every year when these iconic flowers bloom. However, there is no need to get out of town if you want a gorgeous arrangement, these bouquets were large and start at only ten bucks each. Another flower growing here in Washington is my all-time-favorite for its scent and therapeutic qualities: Lavender.
Specialty Products from Lavender Farms
A regular establishment inside the Market, who also sources from local flower farms: All Things Lavender. I picked up a headache remedy aromatherapy stick. Surprisingly so many products can be made from one flower including chocolates, lotions, pillows, oils, and more. I bought a bag of flower buds for making naturally perfumed satchels to stash inside sock drawers and under my pillow to reduce stress. Here I was reminded what a great sensory experience an afternoon at Pike Place is, with so many fresh smells, bright colors, music varieties, and sights of strange specialty food items, not found in everyday shopping experiences.
Fresh Samples from the Farmer’s
While walking through the aisles of the market, I tasted excellent apples and pears bursting with flavor. I stopped at another seasonal booth and purchased a cup of freshly made hot apple cider. A small eight-ounce cup was five bucks but the flavor was so vibrant it was worth the price. This is a product that stands out as superior to any grocery store cider, as it’s so fresh. More beautiful produce items included scaly dragon fruits, giant sized elephant garlic, and fiddlehead ferns (that I didn’t even know you could cook with). I found an Italian pasta shop giving samples of chocolate noodles. This market is full of farmer’s fresh delights. On a not-so-appetizing note, visitors may want to walk down the ramp towards Post Alley to the famous gum wall.
Gum Wall and Art Galleries
That’s right, the gum was is a gallery of ABC gum. Your kids will spell it out for you, ABC stands for: Already Been Chewed. Chewed and then stuck to the wall for public display. If anyone wants to partake in the fun then they can purchase a pack of gum at the café and get chewing. I’m not sure why it’s so exciting to see, other than the sheer novelty and gross-out factor. Some people have spelled out their names in gum while others just slap some on the wall and click a few selfies to show the world they have been there.
Live Artists Working in Studio Galleries
My recommendation is to go back indoors, to the lowest levels underneath the market to view the art galleries. Several fine art paintings and a few sculptural installations are on display, as well as watercolors and prints for sale. If you are lucky then the artists themselves will be in the gallery, doing their painting. I found two noteworthy modern fine artists who were hard at work and on display: Jesse Link and Alex Achaval. Go check out their work for yourself, as I wouldn’t want to give away their secrets here. In reality, all the vendors at the Pike Place Market are fine artists of their own craft. The market is the best way to experience the heart and soul of Seattle.