Cooking-Focused Food Market Opening in Old Fishtown Firehouse

Riverwards Produce has found a new (way bigger!) home.

2200 East Norris Street, the future home of Riverwards Produce market | Photo via Vincent Finazzo

2200 East Norris Street, the future home of Riverwards Produce market | Photo via Vincent Finazzo

There were some magical months this past summer when, every Saturday morning, I would wake up, make my coconut green tea, read a magazine, then get myself out of the house and over to the Riverwards Produce market, a tiny — but very well-stocked — weekends-only market on Fishtown’s Tulip Street, where the bill for all the produce I could want for the week, most of it local, never set me back more than $20. (And I am to produce what the Cookie Monster is to chocolate chip pastries, so that’s saying something.)

I repeat: It was magical. And then one day, like magic, it was gone. The market, which was intended as a temporary location anyway, while the guys running it gauged the neighborhood’s interest for a produce market in Fishtown, went “poof!” after the partners had a falling out.

But good news, my fellow Fishtowners: Riverwards Produce, now helmed by just the original founder Vincent Finazzo, has signed a lease on a new, larger space in Fishtown for a market that will be open seven days a week starting — hopefully! — in March of 2017. And the 2,000-square-foot space at 2200 East Norris Street will allow them to offer way more than just produce. Say it with us: HOOOOOORAY.

Before I tell you all about what the new market — housed in the first floor of a what was originally a firehouse — will look like, let’s talk about Finazzo’s philosophy when it comes to bringing produce to the people. A big part of Finazzo’s goals with this market, as he tells me, is to offer the option of healthy ingredients at prices that won’t make you wince along with — and this is the key — the resources and education to turn those ingredients into a delicious meal. Because let’s face it: Cooking healthy meals for yourself can be daunting if no one’s ever shown you how easy it can be.

As he tells me, “I want people to be able to come in and be able to, for $10, buy enough veggies for a vegetarian meal for four.” And he and his team will be going the extra step of creating budget-friendly weekly recipes for people to take with them as they please, and offering the occasional cooking demo. Finazzo also plans to have an area of the shop devoted to a free library of sorts for cookbooks.

As Finazzo says, he wants shoppers to get to Riverwards and think, “‘I made it here,’ and we’ll be able to help you figure out the rest.” So his idea, in a few words, is to offer healthy options along with the tools to help you get those healthy ingredients from the store into your mouth. In the end, as he says on his website, he hopes to “advance the notion that eating healthier meals creates better outcomes for everyone.”

Okay, so now, what folks can expect from the market: There will be lots of produce (it is called Riverwards Produce, after all), much of it local, at affordable prices (Riverwards Produce is also a wholesale distributer to a big number of Philly restaurants, which allows them to provide produce at a lower price than many retailers, Finazzo explains); then there will be a bulk section with grains, pastas, beans, nuts and more; they’ll carry local bread and local dairy products, like milk and cheese; and they’ll have a meat section stocked by Philly’s Primal Supply Meats. Finazzo says, “I’m not going to carry Pillsbury bleached flour, but I understand that it may be off-putting to someone to have an $8 bag of flour,” meaning the shop will place an emphasis on finding quality products, mostly local, that don’t break the bank. They’ll also be partnering with local businesses to offer some pre-made items to satisfy the on-the-go commuters of the neighborhood, but don’t expect items like Amy’s microwavable burritos in the shop. Remember: The idea is to show people how awesome it can be to create a healthy meal from scratch. Give a man a fish, ya know?

Finazzo says, “I’m trying to address problems I see with typical grocery stores and challenge the format of how markets are set up and carried out and present it in a new way. Produce is a timeless commodity. I’m updating it and bringing it to the people.” Hear, hear.

The hours for the market are still TBD, but Finazzo does say that, unlike the temporary location on Tulip Street (which was only open on the weekends), the new location will be a full-scale, seven-days-a-week market with hours that will satisfy nine-to-fivers who leave early and get home in the evening. Riverwards Produce currently has a Kickstarter campaign underway, with the goal of raising funds for refrigeration units, which Finazzo describes as the heart of the market’s operation. You can find out more about that here. And stay tuned for opening details!

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