The Independent Marketplace is Dead; Long Live the Independent Marketplace
January 23, 2013
Seems what we have here is a good old-fashioned love story.
Which actually started on Valentine's Day.
Pickle preservationist entrepreneur extraordinaire Todd Champagne, who owns and operates Happy Girl Kitchen with his wife Jordan, and Patrick Orosco, the mixed use dreamer driving developments in Seaside and Sand City for the Orosco Group, met on Feb. 14, 2012.
And fell in love.
They immediately clicked over a breakthrough collaborative concept of their own design—The Independent Marketplace in Sand City—and the straw hats and bright green bandanas they'd wear at the first few.
"We were thinking we couldn't find anyone to tell us not to," Orosco says.
Monterey County masses promptly fell for the food truck-farmers market-urban culture phenomenon that resulted too.
Hell, I swooned too, at least enough to serve beer there for a few months and rank it the third biggest foodie story in the entire county for 2012, ahead of everything from seafood fraud and national TV gigs for local tastemakers to foodie controversy in Carmel and a big new restaurant in Pebble Beach.
And now, with the monthly installment of the first-Thursday juggernaut coming around Feb. 7—and taking on a Valentine's Day theme—the love seems dead.
The Independent Marketplace is no more.
Which is actually great news.
Great news because the ritual explosion of taste, dialogue and fresh fare—which was actually a daring way to draw renters to the empty ground floor of the Independent, which Orosco manages—actually worked.
The very next day after the Feb. 7 event—and its Burning Man fire dancing, 60-plus vendors, Polaroid photo booth and Oya Salon fashion—construction will begin on a permanent place to carry on the Independent catch line of eating, drinking and interacting.
Orosco's calling it a "flip flops-and-family version of the San Francisco Ferry Building."
The vision is to drop a full service bar-restaurant to anchor the south side opposite Post No Bills craft brewhouse on the north, with a line of stall-style spots between—meat counters, fish purveyors, maybe a bake shop.
"We want to identify a mission-driven menu with locally sourced foods and meticulous presentation in a format that's still very casual for a gourmet eatery that goes with mood of the marketplace," he says.
Speaking of mission-driven, one candidate is a San Francisco Mission District phenom who's asked not to be named on the record until things are more cemented.
The Marketplace furnished a perfect way to vet potential tenants, and Champagne, whose Happy Girl might very well have a presence (I'd bet on it), thinks it will be filled with what he calls "Indy All-Stars."
Orosco names Verve Coffee, Companion Bake Shop, Pastries and Petals, Penny Ice Creamery, Local Catch Monterey (oyster bar?!), Mission Hill Creamery and Ashby Confections as wish-list candidates, but emphasizes there are no hard commitments yet.
The first Thursday rhythm, meanwhile, will continue with a pop-up producer dinner model with around a dozen purveyors collaborating on a 100-to-200-person event. When weather warms, Marketplace addicts can anticipate an outdoor continuation of the farmers market plus plus.
Feb. 7, then, is the grand finale of this incarnation of a burgeoning boom.
"For folks who’ve come and loved it—or haven’t come yet—this is it," Champagne says.
Or at least until the next romance with progressive foodie ingenuity.
"All you need is love," Champagne says. "And 10,000 square feet."