The growth of the steel industry; Camp Curtin housing hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers during the Civil War; the 1897 fire at the Capitol; the first Pennsylvania Farm Show; the race riots of 1969; the 1996 collapse of the Walnut Street Bridge; and the addition of Restaurant Row and changes to City Island.
During all of these events, the Broad Street Market, founded in 1860 with the stone building opening in 1863, has stood proud.
Now, thanks to dedicated community leaders, ambitious business owners and improved market management, the Broad Street Market itself is stirring back to life.
Welcoming to All
When Ashlee Dugan expanded her role from board member to interim marketing manager in 2014, she had a vision of what the market could be.
“Coming in, I knew that it was important to diversify the food options that were at the market and to increase the density of products that we have,” said Dugan, who, late last month, announced she would leave her role to take a job with the state. “So, the first goal was to fill up all the empty spaces with new and already existing businesses so that the customers would have as many options as possible.”
Inspired by markets around the state and across the country, she started making a list of what she felt the Broad Street Market needed. Not only did she think of what would be popular items, but she also focused on creating a place that could fill the needs of a customer’s Saturday grocery list. Then, the outreach and recruiting process began.
Now, the market boasts about a dozen new businesses since Jan. 1, with more on the horizon. With the changes, Dugan stressed that she wanted to maintain the market as welcoming to all.
“With the diversity of the products, I really have tried to keep in mind the price point options. So, for example, we maintained an expanded produce stand, but also increased organic and local options that tend to be more expensive. All of our produce vendors accept SNAP and EBT cards, so we’re hopeful that that range of options and variety of price points are helpful to everyone.”
A Doughnut, a Dream
Dugan’s focus on the market as a community hub reminded one of the new vendors, Eva Burchfield of Evanilla, of the bazaars in her home country of Iraq.
“The bazaar is actually more chaotic,” she laughed. “But sometimes, the [Broad Street Market] vendors talk to each other over the stands, and I always think to myself, ‘This is like the bazaar.’”
Burchield’s favorite treat, doughnuts, weren’t available in the Iraqi bazaar, so she began to make them at home in her kitchen. Five years ago, she moved to the states and began learning the art of baking and pastry-making. After she completed a program at HACC and did a yearlong internship, she decided it was time to start her own business.
“I remember my mom saying ‘What would be the first food you ate if you would ever go to the states?’ and, I said, ‘Uhhh, a doughnut, of course!’”
It was the people of Harrisburg who confirmed that there was a yearning for doughnuts—a statement that encouraged Burchfield to follow her dream of opening a business.
“I wouldn’t trade it for any other place,” she said. “Harrisburg has so much potential and charm, and that’s why we’re so attached to it. It’s so welcoming to new businesses. Customers were telling me we do need this in the city, and that was so encouraging.”
Now, Burchfield offers classic and gourmet doughnuts, as well as doughnuts with a bevy of unique toppings and seasonal flavors. A popular item on the menu, a doughnut sundae, features another Midtown-grown business, Urban Churn. This delightful treat is a scoop of Urban Churn’s unique ice cream on top of an Evanilla doughnut with chocolate sauce and a cherry.
Jess Adams of Mad Dash, an artisan grilled cheese food truck turned market stand, explained that the desire to build your neighbors up instead of tearing them down is one of the reasons she’s so passionate about Harrisburg.
“I think Harrisburg is unique because you have businesses supporting each other,” she said. “It’s not a competition. We all want to succeed and, by working together, we are achieving that.”
Adams started her food truck venture in March 2014 and, a few months later, as things went well, added another truck. After speaking with Dugan and hearing her vision for the market, Adams settled into a permanent space where she could sell during the winter months, as well. She believes her market home is a reflection of the energy and innovation budding in Midtown right now.
“I see the market and Midtown continuing to grow and be a hot spot for people to be. With all the new businesses in the market and surrounding areas, the market will make its mark again,” she explained, giving Zeroday Brewing and the new outdoor film offerings at Midtown Cinema as examples.
The outdoor theater at Midtown Cinema is an effort of the community group Friends of Midtown. Board President Shawn Westhafer, who has partnered on numerous events at the market, agrees that the influx of business is not only cherished by long-standing and new customers, but should also be celebrated due to its economic impact on the community.
“The recent surge of new businesses at the market has provided customers an even more diverse collection of vendors to patronize, making Midtown an even better place to live or visit,” said Westhafer. “It also has the practical effect of increasing income for the market, which can be invested in infrastructure improvements, attracting yet more vendors and customers.”
Westhafer called the recent changes in the neighborhood a “virtuous cycle of improvement,” a description Adams agrees with.
“This area is in the midst of a turnaround and, by bringing in new businesses, creating jobs and ‘cleaning up’ the city, it’s just an overall win for everyone,” she said.
Mark Wieder also exemplifies the “everybody wins” mentality.
Recently, Wieder opened Popped Culture, another new market stand. The business’s tagline, “Popcorn with a Purpose,” reveals his commitment to serving the community. For every bag sold, one bag is given to a child in need.
An attorney by trade, Wieder took the plunge into popcorn after feeling a lack of meaning in his previous position. What’s unique about Popped Culture is that it operates as a social business, which, according to Wieder, combines business sense and social purpose.
“Nearly 16 million children lack access to food, and this number is growing,” Wieder said. “Instead of providing low-cost products and services specifically geared towards those on a tight budget, Popped Culture is approaching the difficult task of providing goods and services to those who are at risk of poverty in a new way.”
By being at the market, Wieder said that he has the opportunity to start a conversation about what a social business is and how it’s helping the community. He also points back to Dugan and her vision for the market as the driving force behind the recent changes.
“I think Ashlee Dugan did such an amazing job,” he said. “She had a vision for the market and what it can be.”
He’s also impressed with how she quickly recruited vendors for the market.
“A month and a half before I moved into the market, there were only four stalls here,” he said, gesturing around the stone building. “And, in the last month, there are five new vendors that have moved in. People want to come here.”
Dugan took a commitment to community health as her inspiration.
“My personal inspiration for this comes from a belief in the power of local food and how it can really affect communities and community health,” Dugan explained.
The results have shown themselves in foot traffic and register receipts.
“We have seen quite an increase in traffic, especially Fridays and Saturdays,” she said. “A lot of the vendors are reporting higher sales. For the most part, customer reactions have been positive.”
Dugan now is leaving the market for a position as the PA Preferred coordinator for the state Department of Agriculture.
She said that she’s “honored” to have been offered that position, but admits that her departure is bittersweet.
“It’s not easy to leave the market,” she said. “It’s a place I love.”
Does she have any advice for her successor?
“I would say to come into it with a really collaborative spirit,” she said. “Work with the vendors and the board and the community, and the market will evolve further.”
The Broad Street Market is located at N. 3rd and Verbeke streets in Harrisburg. It is open Thursday and Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In recent months, numerous new vendors have opened up at the Broad Street Market.
The Harrisburger: Craft hamburgers and fries
Mad Dash: Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches
Popped Culture: Creatively flavored kettle popcorn
Sugar Whipped: Market location of Lancaster’s popular Sugar Whipped Bakery
Tasty Dishes: Authentic African-Caribbean cuisine
Abrams & Weakley: Market outpost of the popular pet supply store
Elementary Coffee Co.: Fresh-roasted coffee and drinks
Evanilla: Gourmet doughnuts
John B. Kelly Seafood Connection: Fresh-caught and prepared seafood
Kubtini: Homemade pizza and deli items
Radish & Rye Food Hub: Locally sourced and organic produce, dairy and other foods
Soul Burrito: Freshly made, generously stuffed burritos