Harbor District Market to open Saturday

Published 6:28 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2019

It’s a project years in the making, and this Saturday, the much-anticipated Harbor District Market will open its doors for the first time.

Housed in the old McLellan’s Five and Dime at 140 W. Main St., and run under the auspices of the Washington Harbor District Alliance, the market is poised to serve as a community hub in downtown Washington, offering local goods and produce, educational exhibits and a new gathering place for people in Beaufort County.

“The biggest thing with this space is we want it to be an all-inclusive community location,” Washington Harbor District Alliance Director Meg Howdy said. “No matter age, gender or socioeconomic status, we want people to feel comfortable in coming and spending time at the market, learning at the market and shopping at the market.”

Every day the market is open, shoppers can purchase products from six anchor vendors that will have dedicated spaces in the building. These anchor vendors include Acre Station Meat Farm, Southside Farms, Carryout By Chrislyn, Val’s Gourmet Baked Goods, IBX Soaps and Simply Divine Oil & Wine.

Joining the anchor vendors this Saturday, and intermittently in the future, will be Back Creek Soaps, Where’s the Wine, MJT Farms, Bird in Hand Gifts and Simplici-Tea and Coffee Co. With other vendors cycling in throughout the seasons, the venue promises plenty of variety for shoppers.

While the Harbor District Market will offer seasonal produce and handmade goods, it’s more than just a market. Partnering with other local organizations, the market will provide new space for educational programming and exhibits on Beaufort County’s past.

During the soft opening this weekend, representatives from both the Historic Port of Washington and the Washington Underground Railroad Museum will share a piece of Washington’s story with visitors. With plenty of space in the market, the two organizations will have room to spread out and set up exhibits that will honor Beaufort County’s agricultural roots.

In addition, the WHDA has also established partnerships with the Beaufort County Cooperative Extension Service, the Beauport County Community College Agribusiness Program, the BCCC Small Business Center and Vidant Health, all of which will supplement the market’s offerings with programming and other resources.

“We’re able to bring these institutions where the people are,” Howdy said. “People aren’t always comfortable in an institutional setting, where being a community gathering place, hopefully they’ll be more comfortable taking a cooking class or learning how to use those vegetables in a healthy manner.”

As for the building itself, Howdy says it’s been a long process to rehab the old McLellan’s Five and Dime. With the help of project manager Bill Cummings, contractor Chris Furlough, Wayne Harold and Dal Newbold, Howdy said WHDA has been able to stretch limited funds to make the restoration process happen. Without the support of dedicated volunteers, professionals and donors, the market might not have become a reality.

“People really believe in this project,” Howdy said. “We are appreciative of everything from $1 to $10,000. Every little bit helps.”

While the doors to the building may be opening Saturday, there’s still more work to be done. All told, approximately $650,000 has been pledged or given through in-kind donations, out of an estimated $1.2 million price tag for the project.

Howdy says the next steps at the Harbor District Market include increasing the building’s electric load capacity to support refrigerators and freezers, outfitting vendor spaces, installing a sprinkler system on the second story and adding an elevator for handicap accessibility. The icing on the cake will be a certified kitchen where instructors can offer cooking demonstrations and vendors can make value-added products.

After Saturday’s soft opening, the Market will be open four days a week, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Each vendor will set his or her own hours of operation within that time frame.

Howdy said the WHDA’s outdoor Farmers and Artisans Market, held each Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at the corner of Bonner and Water streets, will continue in addition to the Harbor District Market as long as vendors are interested. For more information on the Harbor District Market, or to learn about vendor opportunities, call 252-947-1487.