If your travels take you to major metropolitan areas, chances are you’ve dined in a food hall. Chelsea Market and Eataly in New York City come to mind, along with Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia (a food hall, of sorts, in one of the country’s oldest public markets) and Revival Food Hall in Chicago. Every big city seems to have one or more. And Syracuse is getting one, too.
Salt City Market, a project of the Allyn Family Foundation, is envisioned as a place where people from all walks of life come together to enjoy food. The foundation, through a newly created not-for-profit corporation called Syracuse Urban Partnership, has purchased the parking lot/vacant lot at the corner of South Salina and West Onondaga streets, across from the Marriott Syracuse Downtown, and plans to build a new, mixed-use, multi-floor building.
The first floor will include a 24,000-square-foot food hall, as well as a grocery store, cafe and bar. The second floor will have office space for the Allyn Foundation and others and the top three floors are reserved for mixed-income housing. Groundbreaking will take place this summer and the food hall is expected to open in the fall of 2020.
Salt City Market manager Adam Sudmann has spent the last month holding information sessions in the community and meeting with potential food merchants.
Its opening is many months down the road, but a picture of what Salt City Market will look like is starting to take shape:
- The market will have about 10 food stalls, ranging from 150 to 300 square feet, each with new kitchens.
- Rent will range from $600 to $900 a month, depending on stall size. First and last month rent, plus security deposit, will be required. One- and two-year renewable leases will be offered.
- The goal is to feature a diversity of cuisines from a diversity of people. Outreach has focused on communities of color and immigrant communities. But anyone who is passionate, hard-working and food-driven — and who could benefit from business support and training in an incubator setting — is encouraged to apply.
“I don’t see many places where all kinds of people get to cross paths on a regular basis,” Sudmann said at a March 27 information meeting at Habiba’s Ethiopian Kitchen on North Salina Street. “Food is a great way to get people together. We see it as a great way to break bread together.”
Sudmann brings plenty of experience in working with new Americans and international cuisine to his role with Salt City Market. Sudmann, a world traveler and event planner, moved to Syracuse in 2013 and shortly thereafter introduced My Lucky Tummy, a popular series of pop-up dinners that spotlight home cooks and the cuisines of their native countries, like Burma, Bhutan, Vietnam, Japan and Cuba.
A couple years later he played a pivotal role in launching (and managing) With Love, Onondaga Community College’s teaching restaurant at 435 N. Salina St. The restaurant opened in 2016 with “restaurateur in residence” Sarah Robin shining the light on the food of her native Pakistan. Everyone involved in the restaurant is a student in OCC’s Workforce Development program.
On March 27, about 10 people showed up at Habiba’s to learn more about Salt City Market and the process of becoming a food merchant. There are several stages to it: Applicants must attend an informational session, complete ServSafe and other training sessions and prepare food for a large-scale (300 guests), multi-cuisine food event scheduled for May 25 at The Rail Line (see below for more information). After a “good showing” at the pop-up event, applicants will then be considered candidates, Sudmann said.
Candidates must also complete small business development training, participate in “takeout Friday” food/catering events for a month and undergo interviews. Eventually, candidates selected as food merchants will shadow owners of several local restaurants and travel to New York City to visit food halls and learn from others.
The selection process is rigorous, Sudmann says, but necessary for both the success of potential food merchants and of the market itself. “The restaurant business isn’t an easy business,” Sudmann noted. “It’s pretty nuanced. We want to get you some practice. We want you to make mistakes and learn. We want to get your name out there.
“There will be people who don’t make it into the market and people who say ‘this isn’t for me.’ There could also be people who decide to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Ultimately, it’s your baby.”
Habiba Boru, owner of Habiba’s Ethiopian Kitchen, served coffee and her signature sambusas (pastry shells filled with meat or vegetables and deep fried) at the information session. She said she is keeping the Salt City Market “in the back of my mind” as she moves forward with her business and thinks about the future, which could include a second restaurant location.
Also in attendance was Sarah Robin, the first entrepreneur in residence at With Love. Robin, who now operates Punjabi Girl Catering, said her focus at present is catering and making some cooking videos, but she wanted to learn more about Salt City Market.
A second round of information and recruitment sessions will be held in September, Sudmann said.
Two Salt City Market information sessions designed for people who are learning English are scheduled for Wednesday, April 24: 10 a.m. at RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Self Empowerment), 302 Burt St., and 4 p.m. at Interfaith Works, 1010 James St. Sign up at saltcitymarket.com.
Salt City Market’s first “audition pop-up” is scheduled for May 25, 6 to 8 p.m., at The Rail Line, 530 S. Clinton St. Guests will have the opportunity to sample food prepared by aspiring food hall merchants. Tickets (limited to 300) go on sale May 10 at 10 a.m. at saltcitymarket.com.