The Market Street Market

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

The first time I saw the 11th Street Market (known locally as the Market Street Market), I could not believe how glorious it was. With its wide open street-level windows, year-round fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and meats, and a fabulous deli all with friendly, knowledgable staff and reasonable prices and on a human scale with unique and intriguing architecture,  this was a market that any city would be proud of as its centerpiece.

I saw the Pike Place Market for the first time a little later, and while my experience was wonderful, I missed the smaller, more human scale of Tacoma’s public market.

It had been a year or two and I couldn’t remember the exact address so I wandered the streets looking along Market and up and down 11th.

I was puzzled and baffled – how could I miss such a bustling market? Had it moved to a new location?

I didn’t seen any signs or even acknowledgement that it had ever existed. I couldn’t remember the name and I didn’t know the address. It seemed like a strange dream.

But how could a market, so busy, so public and so popular just disappear?

I still don’t know the answer, but at least I know that I hadn’t stepped into a Twilight Zone episode.

The beloved and popular public market – Tacoma’s only year-round public market – had been turned into a parking lot.

Seattle’s Pike Place Market almost met its end in the late 1960s – but a community group stood up against the rising tide of urban development and saved it. It is still governed by a council of Pike Place advocates (http://pikeplacemarket.org/governance).

To say Pike Place Market is a definitive Seattle landmark and destination would be an understatement.

Tacoma’s 11th Street Market had no such advocacy group to stand up on its behalf. 

I can’t even begin to imagine the bland committees and boards discussing and approving the destruction of such a vital center of Tacoma.

Decades later, Tacoma still lacks a center.

Tacoma Farmers Market poster Photo by Morf Morford

Tacoma Farmers Market poster
Photo by Morf Morford

The weekly farmers markets are great (map and schedules here http://www.piercecountycd.org/362/Tacoma-Farmers-Markets) but Tacoma needs a permanent, all-seasons public market.

Maybe we’ll have one again, and if we do, we’ll fight to keep it.