Wenatchee adds one more reason for tourists to visit
As if the Wenatchee Valley didn´t have enough to attract visitors already – gorgeous sunshine, dry powder at Mission Ridge, famed tourist meccas like Leavenworth and Lake Chelan nearby – along comes yet another reason to put this Central Washington city on the Tourism Map: The Pybus Market. It´s a Big Idea for a Small City, but it seems to be working out just fine, thank you.
The comparisons with Pike Place Market are unavoidable, right on down to the big market sign that is so reminiscent of the market in Seattle. Some have already dubbed Pybus as the Pike Place Market of Eastern Washington and, in many ways, that´s an apt description.
Located on the Wenatchee waterfront just a short jog from the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail and the Columbia River, the market houses about 20 unique merchants ranging from a winery to a bakery to a flower shop to, yes, a fish market – although they don´t actually throw the fish and, fitting for their Central Washington location, they also focus on meats. The market is a year-round enterprise housed in a renovated old building once used by the Pybus Steel Company. The indoor market is open 362 days a year so the skiers who come to Mission Ridge are just as apt to stop by as the thousands who visit Wenatchee for the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival each spring.
The market opened in May of 2013 after a one-year construction period and several years of development. According to Executive Director Steve Robinson, the market was first conceived as a legacy gift to the community by local civic boosters Mike and JoAnn Walker who were hoping to find a way to see the results of their generosity while they were still alive. They put up $5 million and got a another $5 million from a combination of the Port of Chelan County and the federal government.
“There was this gorgeous building that could be refurbished,” explained Robinson, “and it really came down to a kind of serendipity of everything coming together. It really came down to a desire to have a common meeting place for the people of this community along the river – something all of us could be very proud of.”
The building is quite historical. Eliza Thomas Pybus arrived in Wenatchee from England in 1911 at the age of 37. He was a blacksmith and the Pybus Steel Company eventually fabricated steel for shipyards, dams and other Pacific Northwest projects. The company was sold a number of times and, after it had gone out of business, the building was deserted. It was apparent to the Walkers that the ornate design of the building had possibilities, not to mention its proximity to the riverfront.
The building was ideal, according to Robinson, because he and others could see how it could be renovated into a warm and inviting place. “It had to meet the cool factor,” said Robinson, who explained that is the common denominator among other successful markets on the West Coast that he toured to look for ideas. The huge doors, the truss work, the fans, the windows – they all helped the market achieve the “industrial chik” that Robinson had been looking for. It´s the same kind of thing you see in the big cities where old factories and industrial buildings are being remodeled into lofts and living spaces for young urban professionals.
Another important part of the formula is that the new market is seemingly always busy with some sort of event. They try to have something new and distinctive every week, and that can range from having the National Christmas Tree stop here on its journey across the country to ticketed musical events for semi-famous touring bands. If you look on the Pybus Market website, there´s a schedule that packs a lot of variety into each month and it´s likely that any given week you visit something interesting will be scheduled at the market.
Of course visitors don´t have to wait for a special event to enjoy lunch or dinner down at the market with a European style bistro and another restaurant offering wood-fired pizza and bratwursts, lots of fresh produce at the Farmer´s Market and yet another place to enjoy a myriad of coffee drinks. Nearby are some excellent brewpubs including one that brews beer on the premises and serves up fresh barbecue. As Robinson envisioned, a trip to the Pybus Market has become the new cool thing to do in Wenatchee.
“We´re in it for the long term,” says Robinson, noting the market has signed a 50-year lease with the Port of Chelan County. He says this is an audacious project for a community of this size -- in fact, Pybus is the second biggest year-round public market in the Northwest -- but that suits him just fine.
“We want to try as many things as possible,” Robinson explains. “We know we will fail at some things. But we will continue to surprise.”
For more information on Pybus Market, please phone 509-888-3900 or visit www.pybuspublicmarket.org
Photo courtesy Pybus Market
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