THE PRICE OF ONIONS changed Seattle history. Immigrant farmers from Rainier Valley and beyond grew much of the fresh produce for Seattle in the early 1900s, but they were subject to greedy middlemen who would buy low from farmers and sell high to grocers and restaurants, which would then pass along the costs to increasingly angry housewives.
By 1907 some farmers had already begun thwarting the price gougers, meeting with consumers at spots along Western Avenue. But when onions went from 10 cents to a dollar Seattle went ballistic. Prodded by city councilman Thomas Revelle, the city agreed to let farmers sell directly to shoppers, and on a soggy summer Saturday that year, the 17th of August, 10,000 of them descended on eight farmers who set up shop near the corner of First and Pike. By 11am, the carts were stripped and the Pike Place Market was launched.
In these foodie times, we take it for granted that we can buy local, sustainable produce grown by farmers whose names we know, on farms we can visit personally. That homegrown ethos has been essential to the Market’s DNA for a century, which more than explains its allure to 10 million visitors a year, half of them local, if you ask the vendors. (And if you ask me, the other half come from the 223 cruise ships docking in Elliott Bay.)
We’d never have survived Seattle Met’s startup year if our arts editor Steve Wiecking hadn’t regularly returned from the Pike Place Market bearing grease-spotted bags of deep-fried mini doughnuts from Daily Dozen. And I can always count on being able to find fat, sweet local asparagus from Mike at Sosio’s or an impressive crown roast at Don and Joe’s. We all have our favorites.
Our office’s easy proximity to the Market makes us natural experts in its edible offerings—if not its floor plan. In its 104-year life, the Market has grown to 11 buildings housing 240 businesses on seven acres. And over the winter and spring, it underwent what’s called Construction Phase II, a retrofit and renovation project requiring temporary closures and relocations of dozens of businesses (Help! Where’s Three Girls Bakery?). Thankfully, this month everybody should be settled back where they belong. Even so, a person could use a map (That’s a whole story in itself. For now, see page 49).
All of this is a way of getting at the fact that we were naive to think we could capture the Market in several pages of a magazine. The more months and days and hours our lifestyle editor Jessica Voelker spent there, the more our design director André Mora and photographer Young Lee scouted potential shooting spots, the more revisions illustrator -Michael Byers made on the map, the more ambitious this labor of love became. It’s in your hands now. We suggest you take it as a starting point, then go explore for yourself.
Editor In Chief