Findlay: An Urban Market

We, as humans, are busy. Often too busy to notice what’s happening around us. We are bombarded by people, things, gadgets, advertisements,  environmental noise, et cetera. I’m surprised heart attack rates haven’t sky-rocketed in the last ten years. I’ll admit, I’m as guilty as the next person. Right now I have eight different windows open in my browser. I’m listening to music, checking my Twitter feed, looking up DSLR cameras, and planning my trip to NYC in July for Capsule. My mind races at what seems like jet engine speed. Oh, and this isn’t just a rare occurrence. I find myself  mult-tasking each and every day. I wake up and go. There is no stopping.

I need a break; a place to step out of this crazy life. Luckily, I’ve got the perfect solution. You’re thinking the beach, maybe an exotic Caribbean island? Unfortunately, the lush tropical island you were hoping for  isn’t attainable. There’s a place in Cincinnati that is like no other place in the world. It hasn’t been infiltrated by the masses and/or visited by Anthony Bourdain and his travel crew. It may be well known to most Cincinnatians, but not necessarily by the rest of the world.  It’s a place where the community comes together seven days a week and shares customs, cultures, and languages. It’s where I go to unplug from all my anxieties and immerse myself in an experience . This place, my friends, is Findlay Market.

Findlay Market is not a new place in town. The market house was built on land donated to the city of Cincinnati by the estate of James Findlay and Jane Irwin Findlay. It’s Ohio’s oldest surviving municipal market house. In 1885, doors opened to the community and the rest is history. Throughout the years, Findlay Market has seen its fare share of changes and growth (like anything that’s been around for 100+ years). There were two sets of renovations the market has gone through (1973-74 and 2002-2003) . Today vendors line the stalls of the market and serve not only the community of Over-The-Rhine, but the city of Cincinnati and its surrounding neighbors.

The words you are reading do not do Findlay Market justice. No writer can step foot into the market and truly paint an accurate picture. But to be honest, I don’t think I would want for that to happen. Like I had mentioned in my first piece for A&H Magazine, life is about experiences. Findlay Market does just that. The market is a unique experience each shopper has when they step foot onto the grounds. The conversations I have with the vendors is what personally brings me back to the market each and every week. Cheryl Eagleson, Marketing Director of the Corporation for Findlay Market (a non-profit tax exempt management company that manages and operates the market), added that, “The idea of working with the merchant that knows the product inside and out is a different kind of experience.” Pause for a second: think about what she  just said. Do you have any idea where the ingredients came from inside your boxed food? Where the poultry and/or meat comes from? The vegetables you ate last night; where did those come from? Do you have any idea? Does the teenager behind the grocery counter know? Unfortunately, he or she most likely doesn’t. We are a society of convenience—quick and easy. We don’t eat well. Sure, that statement may cause a bit of controversy, but it’s true. Our idea of eating resembles the way we live our lives.

Findlay MarketThere was a time when you shopped for the moment. The food you prepared (yes, you actually had to make meals, they weren’t pre-packaged) was fresh and most likely local. You had a relationship with your butcher, produce man, hell, maybe even the farmers themselves. He/She shared recipes with you as if you were one of his children. You bought your food that day and most likely cooked it that day. There was no such thing as “ready to eat meals.”  Then, people started moving out of the city. Highways became the major method of transportation (can you imagine what the States would be like if we would have invested in a rail system?). People then moved into their cars (metaphorically). Neighborhoods in the suburbs were popping up left and right. There was a  need for large, industrial style grocery stores. Most of these new stores carried a bulk amount of product and needed to be shipped from all over the country. Manufacturers moved from fresh to boxed food. Yes, we were able to keep food stored for a longer amount of time, but we grew away from fresh and organic food (don’t get me started on fast-food chains). Findlay Market is not trying to compete with the large, corporate grocery store chains. They are comfortable with what they are doing and proud of the people they serve. They take pride in their vendors, service, and hospitality.

It’s no surprise that over 881,000 people visited the market last year alone. Cheryl’s goal is to “covert visitors into shoppers.” She added, “The one thing that everyone who comes to the market shares is the fact that we all eat and we are choosing a public market experience because we are particular about what what we want to eat. The more we learn about food, the more particular we become.” From this experience at Findlay, our horizons expand and we are not limiting ourselves to what would be traditional. We are making new and different choices that we wouldn’t have made if we were not exposed to the vendors at Findlay.

You may not be able to visit Findlay Market anytime soon, which, is unfortunate. However, fresh markets are popping up everywhere and I couldn’t be more optimistic. Odds are that there is at least one in your hometown/city. Search around the internet and see what you can come up with. Travel outside your norm and visit the market. Trust me when I say this: you won’t be disappointed. Yes, it may be a bit extra work (writing down a shopping list, having an idea of the meal you would like to cook), but it will be well worth it. Oh, and if you do have the chance to visit the beautiful city of Cincinnati, make sure to stop up at Findlay and converse with the variety of vendors.


*With special thanks to Cheryl Eagleson for her time and hospitality.



Christopher Dam

Christopher Dam is a senior writer/photographer with A&H Magazine