Reading Terminal Merchants
By the early 1980s the reawakening of Philadelphia’s commercial center and a growing interest in artisanal food drew a new generation of shoppers to the Market. In 1989, a new convention center – adjacent to the Market — was on the drawing boards. In a replay of the standoff of 1891, the Market’s merchants felt their businesses were threatened by a major construction project. Customers feared that the proposed convention center could endanger the spirit of the Market. Shoppers, merchants, and preservationists rallied to keep the Market’s special flavor and historic role intact.
The newly formed Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority purchased the Reading Terminal Market from the Reading Company in 1990. The Authority and the merchants negotiated preservation agreements and a plan to keep the Market open during construction. Most importantly, the Authority secured a critical $30 million in public funding to upgrade the Market’s infrastructure and freshen up the drab interior.
In 1995, the Authority created a non-profit corporation to manage the Market. In the years since, this historic landmark has prospered. Today the Reading Terminal Market is one of the nation’s most successful public markets with more than 75 independent small businesses that offer an array of fresh and prepared foods, lunch counters, and places to eat and shop.
“It has a festive old-world energy that no 21st Century market could ever duplicate.”
–Craig LaBan, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2007
“Customers are drawn by the diversity, the democracy, the vitality, color, and clatter.”
–David K. O’Neil, General Manager Reading Terminal Market
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1988
“It’s still very much a working market… It looks great but not too polished. It’s still the old market with the same feeling it had before.”
–Irina Smith, Food author and Market shopper
“The wondrous smells waft through the Market, putting people at ease. The presence of food defines the place as a huge tent under which hospitality and satisfaction can be expected.”
–Professor Elijah Anderson, The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life, 2011
“There’s a lot going on. Ice getting shoveled over the sea bass. Peach cones getting dipped. Tubas of fruity Lucques being scooped. The Market is animated, not static. Talky, not silent. Mined with intersections that might yield who knows what.”
–Rick Nichols, July 2011