New home of the Market Street Grocery

Since the last grocery store closed in 2010, downtown residents have clamored for a new store to open—and as the downtown population has steadily risen, the rumble has grown louder.

“We did a survey of downtown residents,” says John Valentine of the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation (PDCDC), “and the number one thing people wanted, by far—by far—was a grocery store.”

Soon residents will be sated: the Market Street Grocery is slated to open by the end of February.

Construction woes slowed the progress and delayed the original spring 2014 opening date of the 4,6000-square-foot grocery, which is housed in the Thompson Building. Built in 1928, this Historic Landmark—recognized for its white terracotta facade—is a fitting locale for this European-style market. And people are ready.

The store will offer fruits and vegetables, fresh seafood, a gourmet cheese selection, baked goods and an array of pantry items. Wine will be sold by the glass or bottle, and a wine bar that stays open until 11 p.m. will serve small plates. There will be an on-site butcher and—yes—an ample beer selection.

Market Street Grocery will also cater to downtown’s working community by offering a large selection of freshly prepared foods (made in the full kitchen), a coffee bar and a seating area for diners.

Since there is an abundance of downtown stores that sell paper products and medicine, this boutique market will concentrate on food and drinks.

This project is a collaborative effort between Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation (PDCDC) and the four stakeholders: developer Ralph A. Falbo, his son-in-law David Priselac and restaurateurs Ernie and Julian Vallozzi (of Vallozzi’s).

This project was the brainchild of Falbo. “Ralph is the hero in this story,” says Valentine.

Why will this store succeed when others have failed?

“There are at least ten new residential buildings downtown,” says Valentine. “That’s a huge difference in the number of people downtown—and that’s going to make the difference.” Also, the store is hiring highly experienced grocery managers and staff, like a woman from Paris, “who knows cheese inside and out,” says Valentine.

Three of the four stakeholders live downtown, and Valentine notes their philosophy that they “should listen to our neighbors.”

The PDCDC also organized focus groups at the new residential buildings. (The PDCDC acted as a liaison between the community, the developers and the PHLF.) “These were so well attended. We saw such enthusiasm,” says Valentine. “Plus, we saw patterns emerge—people wanted cheese, fresh produce, steaks, prosciutto. These groups helped play a big part in what’s going to be on the shelves.”

“I believe this store is not only going to be a success—but a huge success,” he adds.

Says Falbo? “We’re excited as hell about it.”

A bit on the history: Back in 2008, through a $1 million grant from the Allegheny Foundation, PHLF acquired the Thompson Building. The acquisition of this 10,000-square-foot building was the final component in the creation of the Market at Fifth, which includes three other historic properties developed into residential units and two retail stores, Heinz Healey’s Men’s Apparel and Nettleton Shoe Shop.

Market Square. Photo by Tracy Certo.
Market Square. Photo by Tracy Certo.

For the past five years, Market Square has been in the transformation from a deteriorated urban square to a thriving European-style plaza. One mixed-use development in Market Square—Market Square Place—won the Charter Award of Merit for the Best Block awarded by the Council of New Urbanism. Read about it here in NEXT. In a 2010 ranking of 100 top public spaces in the U.S. and Canada by the Project for Public Spaces, Market Square ranked number seven.

The addition of the Market Street Grocery will only add to the piazza’s dynamic atmosphere. Mangia!

Woods wanderer who was an an editor at New England’s regional magazine, the research director of a Colorado newspaper and a farm hand in Vermont before returning to Pittsburgh to write about and explore her hometown.