Farmers Market turns 90!

| June 27, 2024 | 0 Comments

“Meet me at Third and Fairfax,” has been the official greeting of The Original Farmers Market (OFM), and in this, its 90th anniversary year, many people are expected to do just that. The celebration kicked off its 90 Days of Summer with a well-attended heritage car show June 8, but the summer will be filled with ways to mark the milestone. OFM spokesperson Ilysha Buss describes a Night Market scheduled for Thurs., July 18. There will be seven- to-ten pop-up fashion-related vendors, and DJ Ricky will spin platters from the 90s to accompany the shopping.

Other anniversary events include special promotions at Market merchants, such as Bennett’s Ice Cream offering one dollar off any ice cream product on July 21, National Ice Cream Day. Thursday Night Music at the Market, an annual summer event, will end the summer celebration with a soon-to-be-announced lineup in August. Looking ahead to fall and winter, apart from the popular returning entertainments of Metropolitan Fashion Week, Fall Festival and Christmas and Hanukkah events, there will be the debut of VinylFest on Dec. 7, featuring local and national record dealers, a vinyl swap meet, music memorabilia and stereo equipment, DJs and a performance stage.

FARMERS MARKET FOUNDERS Fred Beck, Roger Dahlhjelm and Earl Gilmore (left to right).


The Original Farmers Market was born when public relations maven Fred Beck, along with partner Roger Dahlhjelm, pitched property owner Earl Bell Gilmore on the idea of a farmers market on his site. Having been raised on a dairy farm, Gilmore sparked to the idea. There are nearly 90 merchants at The Original Farmers Market today, but it opened on July 14, 1934, with 18 tenants, each paying a daily rent of 50 cents, according to OFM archivist Brett Arena. Twelve stalls were actual farmers, but hamburgers, flowers and sherry were also sold. (The burger joint, Allan’s Farmhouse restaurant, was bought by James Dunn and Edward Parsons in 1938 and became Du-par’s.)

ORIGINAL Farmers Market on its first day — July 14, 1934 — at Third and Fairfax.

Many oldest in city

Early tenant Magee’s Kitchen joined the lineup mere months after the OFM’s opening. Blanche Sizelove Magee, who ran a fresh-ground horseradish and nut butter stand with her husband, Ray Magee, in Grand Central Market Downtown, drove by the newly opened venue on her way home and was intrigued. The next day she showed up with a picnic basket filled with sandwiches to sell to the farmers. When shoppers asked to buy them, too, she seized the opportunity. According to her grandson, Operations Manager Dwayne Call, it cost the Magees $100 to set up a permanent stand. Magee’s Kitchen is the oldest surviving market tenant.

Family-run businesses are the backbone of the OFM, including longtime tenant Marconda’s, which set up shop there in 1941. Lou DeRosa, grandson of the original owner, Louis DeRosa (along with Louis DeRosa’s nephew Alfred Marconda), started working in the family business in 1979. His son also works there. Considered the oldest meat market in Los Angeles, Marconda’s sells roughly 2,000 pounds per week of their proprietary blend of all-beef hamburger meat. Their butchers are required to work there for a minimum of two years before they are given the secret recipe. In 1990, Marconda’s purchased Puritan Poultry.

Another OFM butcher shop of long standing is Huntington Meats & Sausage. It has been offering roasts, steaks and much more since it opened at the OFM in 1986. Owner Jim Cascone began slicing meats when he was 8 years old, behind the counter in his grandparents’ meat store in Chicago. Since 2000, Cascone has been at the Farmers Market, where his appreciation for his craft is just as well known as the shop’s Harris Ranch, hormone-free, mostly grass-fed beef. An amazing selection of house made sausages is among the offerings at Huntington Meats. Customers also come back for its organic, farm-raised chickens, eggs and butter. Exotic and game meats are there as well as ground varieties for pets.

Toys, too

Multiple generations of the same family have been operating Kip’s Toyland since 1945, when Irvin Kipper first opened the store before moving to the Original Farmers Market in 1956. His son, Don Kipper, took over in 2020 and explains that his father began the business a month after being released from a POW Nazi war camp. After that horrific experience, Kipper explains, “He decided he wanted to dedicate his life to doing something fun, so he decided on toys.” Don Kipper’s daughter, Lily, is a buyer for the store, and they hope her daughter will eventually become the fourth generation to spread the joy. It is interesting to note that, because rubber was rationed in WWII, the most popular post-war toy was a balloon! Now children clamor for Legos at this, the oldest toy store in the city.

One of the newest concepts to join the OFM is Sam and Jasmine Atoyan’s Mediterranean Market, which opened in October 2023. Jasmine is the stepdaughter of the owner of Moishe’s Restaurant, and customers who love the Middle Eastern flavors of the Moishe’s kabobs can purchase the appropriate herbs and spices at the new Mediterranean Market.

In another interface, the months-old Balam the Jaguar Coffee Roasters features a strawberry latte made from Magee’s strawberry jam.

Next generation

Looking ahead, popular pickle purveyor Kaylin + Kaylin will soon open a new concept involving pickles and food near their present stall. Opening at the OFM (probably in August) will be Ettore Vino & Cucina, a new project from Italian food experts at the popular Osteria Mamma on Melrose, between Lucerne and Larchmont boulevards. Figure 8 Tea Project, a boba and tea shop, soon will make its Farmers Market debut as well. In addition, Katy and Stephane Strouk, the husband-and-wife team behind 30-year market mainstay Monsieur Marcel — which boasts the largest footprint at the Original Farmers Market with its café, market, fresh seafood market and seafood counter — is expected to announce another storefront soon.

JIM CASCONE of Huntington Meats, at the Original Farmers Market since 1986, holds one of his stall’s tomahawk steaks.

Businesses and customers alike are loyal to The Original Farmers Market. Magee’s Kitchen’s Dwayne Coll states, “We’ve made it our home for 90 years and hope to make it for 90 more.”           

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