San Pedro Square Market
By Mary Matlack
Photography by Daniel Garcia
Captivated, excited…skeptical? That pretty much sums up the range of emotions I felt the day I got a postcard that read something like, “Every great city deserves a great public market.” I had to do a double take. As an avid consumer of public markets, I couldn’t believe someone was actually planning one here…in San Jose. If we qualify as a great city, then yes, we deserve a great public market. But what did it all mean? I looked online – very little information. I drove by the area and couldn’t really see it. I followed the blog posts and the controversy. Pretty soon it all died down but there was construction, progress and through it all, the unfaltering, positive face of Steve Borkenhagen.
As a veteran of the restaurant scene in San Jose, Steve Borkenhagen is the market manager, working with the managing partners, Tom McEnery, John McEnery and Martin Menne, to bring the market to life. Steve’s enthusiasm and passion for this project is clear. He’s the kind of guy who makes you want to start a business and join in the fun and so far, he’s at 65% capacity for the market. “The proof is in the pudding,” he admits, “but we’re going to make it the ‘there-there’ for San Jose. John, Tom, Martin and I are committed to making this happen. The offerings at the San Pedro Square Market will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen in Santa Clara County.” This public-private partnership between the City of San Jose, Urban Markets LLC and Barry Swenson Builder has the potential to bolster private, small businesses in San Jose – a badly needed resource, while providing at long last, a “go-to” public space.
Let’s start with the basics. San Pedro Square Market, located at one end of San Pedro Street – bordering N. Almaden and W. St John, will be a welcome addition to the established retail shops, bars and restaurants already located in the San Pedro Square area. In addition, the Downtown San Jose Farmer’s Market (Fridays from 10am-2pm) is located right there, on San Pedro street between Santa Clara and St. John. The Market is also situated smack dab in the middle of San Jose’s oldest historical buildings: the Peralta Adobe, the last remaining structure from El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe – founded in 1777 and the Fallon House built in 1855 by one of San Jose’s earliest mayors, Thomas Fallon. Although school groups visit often, with the addition of the Market to the area, the partners are hoping that these historic sites can finally secure a place in the hearts of the citizens of San Jose.
Located in the center of the outdoor plaza at the new Market, the Peralta Adobe was once part of the original plaza of the first civil settlement in Alta California, Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe. Integrating the Adobe with the San Pedro Square Market creates a destination where the old and the new are intertwined in memory of the past and in celebration of the future. The modern, industrial edge of the new buildings, the trees in the courtyard and the historic adobe provide the place where it will all come together – or where we will all come together. “We see this as a community resource – a place that suits a wide demographic and brings locals and tourists. The outside space is crucial. Live music and something for everyone,” gushes Borkenhagen. “Finally, the Peralta Adobe will get the recognition and respect it deserves.” With parking garages flanking the area, parking for bikes and cars is plentiful and will be free to market patrons. “We want it to be easy to get here and for folks to stay awhile,” remarks Steve.
The market promises so many goodies; it’s hard to know where to begin. Anyone who attended the recent food truck festival, SJEats, can attest to the fact that the outdoor space is impressive and will be even more so once it is complete. And what would make it complete? How about: interactive fountains, attractive climbable-art for kids and lots of communal seating and resting areas for folks of all ages. Oh, and did I mention food? The list of vendors is impressive. As I see it, all in a day’s visit to the market you’ll be able to enjoy coffee and breakfast, gobble up wood-fired Pizza Bocca Lupo, buy unique items for your kitchen from La Fina Cocina, fill the fridge with veggies from The Veggie Box, indulge in oysters and lobster rolls before taking fresh fish home for dinner, have a glass of wine paired with hand-picked cheese and charcuterie, nibble on organic chocolates, buy a custom t-shirt, sample small bite ethnic fare and top it all off with a visit to the famous Treatbot Ice Cream and Karaoke Truck parked inside the market building. All the while, you can enjoy a glass of wine while taking in the daily al-fresco entertainment. If I tried to do all of those things today in San Jose, it wouldn’t be a trip to the market, it would be a road trip!
In searching for vendors, Borkenhagen started with local folks – no chain stores. With retail spaces to fit most every budget and size, Borkenhagen has been able to attract small one-person outfits as well as slightly larger tenants with bigger plans. And for those who dream of opening up a food related small business but blanch at the idea of having to build and operate their own very expensive commercial kitchen, the San Pedro Square Market offers another unique opportunity – the Demonstration Kitchen. This commercial kitchen, located in the center of one of the market buildings, will be owned and operated by two professional chefs and will offer cooking demonstrations, guest chef appearances, cookbook signings as well as a space that budding chef/entrepreneurs can rent for their own commercial cooking projects. Always wanted to own a pie shop? Take orders from customers; rent the space during off-hours, and “voila” – a “pop-up” pie business without all the stress, hassle, or cost of going it alone. The demonstration kitchen will be a dynamic addition to the Market and has the potential to serve as San Jose’s first and foremost incubator for food-related small businesses.
With the removal of the construction fences and the sidewalk improvements made, the table is being set. So, when can we eat? “September, we’ll open the El Dorado Bar and encourage our tenants to set-up shop. We will offer free rent for a period of time in order to encourage our tenants to get started,” says Borkenhagen. The El Dorado Bar, which is owned by the Market, is a centrally located bar that, along with the rest of the market, “has a unique liquor license that allows customers to casually stroll throughout the project with a glass of wine or adult beverage of their choice and not have to worry about property lines.” I do believe we’re ready for that in San Jose, and like many folks, I think it is safe to say that I for one am tired of driving elsewhere to find it. Welcome home – San Pedro Square Market – we hope you like it here.