Sitting amidst two blocks worth of old warehouses and wholesale markets, the bright Union Market in Northeast D.C. stood out like a beacon on Saturday, inviting a host of shoppers back to a part of the neighborhood that had been shuttered for nearly a year.
Located at the site of the old Union Terminal Market, which first opened its doors in 1931 on land wedged between Florida Ave NE and New York Avenue NE, the renovated market had its grand opening on Saturday, launching at about half capacity -- vendors such as Rappahannock Oyster Bar and All Things Olive were there selling their goods, while signs for others such as Righteous Cheese reminded shoppers there's more to come.
Steve Boyle, managing director for the developer EDENS, said he hopes the new facility can maintain some of the old market's flavor -- the building was mostly gutted following an electrical fire in October 2011 -- while creating an essential foodie destination for shoppers looking for a change of pace from Eastern Market to the south.
"We want this to become a citywide market," Boyle said. "We've tried to come up with a vendor list of the best of local markets, and there's an emphasis on quality food."
Saturday's offerings included the California olive oil and wine vinegar made by Keith and Lynn Voight, who were among a handful of vendors well known in other local markets who were invited to come set up shop permanently in Union Market.
The two have been regulars at D.C. and Maryland farmer's market for about eight years, but cancelled trips to other markets to make it for Union's grand opening.
Keith Voight said he was pleased with the turnout, which included customers from outside the city as well as residents from a variety of D.C. neighborhoods.
Columbia Heights resident Julian Mulvoy enjoyed the different atmosphere the market provided thanks to vendors like Rappahannock Oyster Bar, which had seating as well as fresh-shucked oysters and a variety of beer on tap.
"You can buy your produce and have lunch all at the same market," said his wife Margie Omero, comparing Union to the more established Eastern Market in Southeast D.C.
The market was a welcome reason for the couple to explore a part of Washington that many residents had rarely come to before.
"Before all this, I'd never been to this little thicket of buildings in D.C.," Mulvoy said. "It's going to be like D.C.'s version of [New York's] Meatpacking District. It's about to explode here."