Postcards from the Saint John City Market
I try to get home to New Brunswick once or twice a year to visit my dad, best friend and family friends. I’ve been away for ten years now and one thing I always look forward to checking out on a trip home is the Saint John City Market. I plot out in advance what I’m going to eat and I set aside a little money for a piece of art or jewellery. It’s one of my favourite things in Saint John.
The Saint John City Market is located in uptown Saint John, New Brunswick (while other cities go downtown, Saint Johners go uptown) and is the oldest continuous farmer’s market in Canada, going as far back at 1785. The building that stands now opened for business in 1876 and has a distinctive design that I love. If you’re in the market, look up. You’ll notice that the roof is shaped like a boat’s keel flipped upside down. This makes sense since Saint John was a massive shipbuilding center when the market was built and for a long time after.
The City Market is a tourist destination sure, but it’s most definitely a local institution. For many uptown office workers it’s the best place to buy produce and protein, not to mention a staple for the weekday power lunch. My dad is on a first name basis with the guy who runs the seafood stall and I remember how, when I was a kid, Mom would come home with fresh ground beef from the market wrapped in butcher’s paper and tied with string. You don’t get that at the supermarket.
The Saint John City Market is local to its core. It’s home to artists, jewellery makers, craftspeople, bakers, butchers, cooks, and more. You won’t find a national chain here. Even the heavy wrought iron gates that swing shut at the end of every business day were made by a local craftsman.
Though it’s New Brunswick roots are unquestionably strong, the market has become a real international mix in recent years. Pete’s Frootique has a large selection of British imports like cans of mushy peas and spotted dick. You can get Korean bibimbap from Kim’s, Italian pasta from Sisters, Middle Eastern shawarma from Shawarma Hut, or the best Guatemalan chimichangas from Taco Pica. The market is where I introduced my dad to samosas and discovered dulse for myself.
No matter how many times I visit, the Saint John City Market never gets old.