Farmers Market — the original — is thriving

| February 28, 2019 | 0 Comments
MARKET merchant Lou De Rosa has been with Marconda’s Meats and Puritan Poultry since 1979.

When Earl Bell (E.B.) Gilmore agreed to open a Farmers Market on his Third Street and Fairfax Avenue dirt parking lot back in 1934, he probably never imagined its enduring legacy and the world-famous crown it would wear to this day.

It was the height of the Great Depression when E.B. was approached by two local entrepreneurs, Roger Dahlhjelm and Fred Beck, who suggested that E.B. allow local farmers to pull up to the corner every day to sell their goods from the backs of their trucks. They would be charged 50 cents per day. E.B. said yes; 18 trucks showed up that first day; and the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax was born. Eighty-five years later, the market boasts more than 100 merchants (many family-owned) who call The Original Farmers Market home.

“It’s our goal to stay the course of what we’ve always been known for,” says Ilysha Adelstein Buss, director of marketing for the Farmers Market. “And that’s that we’ve always been the community’s favorite grocery store.”

The Farmers Market’s various grocery and specialty food vendors sell vegetables, fruits, cheeses, wine, meats, seafood and desserts, to name a few. In addition to grocery and specialty foods, the market features restaurants both old and new. From oldies like Magee’s kitchen (since 1917) and Du-par’s Restaurant (since 1938) to newcomers like the soon-to-open Roxy & Jo’s Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar, the market has been a place where locals like to eat, drink and be merry.

Food isn’t the only thing that keeps the market humming, though. Daily services that the market provides include a postal center, shoe repair, bank, key shop, candle store, dog bakery, toy store and barbershop.

But what is it about the market that has enabled it to withstand the changes of each passing decade?

“Go-to spot”

“We make sure that every-day services that are vital and important to people are available to them, while continuing to stay current and to be Los Angeles’ go-to spot,” says Buss. “The more things change, the more they stay the same. But that’s what’s great about the market. The butcher, bakery, and post office are all here, but the market community will continue to branch out and offer new goods and services as needed.”

As the world’s retail and delivery climate has changed in the past decade, the market has stepped up with the times to change with it, recently launching a same-day delivery service to meet the needs of its customers.

“You can go to and to order from the market within a 16-mile radius. Or you can do preorders for pickup,” says Buss of the new service.

Vintage vendors

One thing that keeps the market so “current” actually is its extensive list of “vintage” vendors. Today’s savvy shoppers look for longstanding family-owned and quality stores, and it’s not hard to find those in abundance at Farmers Market. Bennett’s Ice Cream (1946), Littlejohn’s English Toffee House (1946), and Bob’s Coffee & Donuts (1970) are just a few of the long-term tenants. 

Another enduring fixture is Marconda’s Meats (and Puritan Poultry), which has been a fixture at the market since 1941. Lou DeRosa, who has worked Marconda’s meat counter since 1979, and his three sons, Cody, Thomas and Tyler, took over the store when Lou’s father, Dave DeRosa, retired. 

“Why are we still here?” asks Lou. “Because this is the best market in the city… we’ve got friendly, loyal customers who love our business.”

And what is it that they love so much? “Buying prime beef that is humanely raised with no growth hormones or stimulants, from a butcher who treats meat-cutting as an art,” says DeRosa. Customers can find Wagyu, Angus and Piedmontese, as well as free-range turkey, geese, ducks and pheasants at Marconda’s poultry stall a few feet away.

And the new

In juxtaposition to the old, the Farmer’s Market is always keeping an eye out for the new. Popular recent newcomers to the market include Nonna’s Empanadas (selling everything from traditional beef and chicken to more creative selections such as Philly cheese steak, macaroni & cheese, and Nutella), and Michelina artisan bakery and patisserie, which goes straight for the buttery jugular.  

“Michelina is a great example of staying true to our roots,” says Buss. “It’s a popular, solid bakery, like those we’ve featured for decades.”

Michelina opened in 2017, wowing the market’s customers with baguettes (made from 15-year-old sourdough), flakey croissants, tarts, macarons, sandwiches and tartines.

“The Farmers Market is very European,” says Vincent Benoliel, founder and owner of Michelina, “and that is what attracted me. There is a lot of foot traffic here; it’s very family-oriented; and everyone is friendly. From the clientele to the landlord to the other tenants, I enjoy everybody.” 

Is there anything that has surprised him about the market?

“Yes, there are a lot of celebrities,” laughs Benoliel. “I wasn’t expecting that.”

The 85th anniversary of the market just happens to coincide with many other market anniversaries, as well. 

“It’s the 30th anniversary of Mardi Gras here in the market,” reveals Buss. “It’s also the 85th anniversary of the fall festival, the third anniversary of the Lunar Festival, the third annual Outfest Pride celebration, and the 25th anniversary of the Gilmore Heritage Auto Show, which takes place this year June 1.”

The car show started 25 years ago as an idea to honor the Gilmore legacy to car culture, and this year’s auto show will feature American Muscle Cars.

“We will close off the street between the market and the Grove, and people can interact with the cars in a casual setting,” previews Buss. “We recognize the diversity of Los Angeles, and if you look at our events, there’s something for everyone.”

The Grove arrives

When The Grove opened next door in 2002, many people thought the new retail and dining behemoth would be the death of the Farmers Market. Instead, the market has adjusted and thrived.

“This whole area is such a great destination,” says Buss. “You come to the Farmers Market and you get to visit authentic Los Angeles, and then you walk a few feet away and you get to see a more glamorous side of L.A. with fancy retailers and movie theatres. It’s a community destination, but each has a completely different feel.”

After 85 years, the market has shown its enduring power to survive. By embracing its history, its decades-old vendor relationships, the loyalty of its customers, and by showing a willingness to accept newness and change, the market has found the path forward.

“We take very seriously our role as L.A.’s living room and community gathering place,” affirms Buss. “But most importantly, we always stay true to the market’s roots.”

For more information, go to 

By Sondi Toll Sepenuk

Tags: , ,

Category: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *