Public market alive and thriving in Portland

Posted Nov. 25, 2011, at 5:07 a.m.
The Public Market House occupies the first two floors and the basement of the Emerson Clapp Building (center) in Portland's Monument Square.
The Public Market House occupies the first two floors and the basement of the Emerson Clapp Building (center) in Portland's Monument Square. Buy Photo
Cormac Brown of Portland strums his new banjo in front of the Public Market House in Monument Square.
Cormac Brown of Portland strums his new banjo in front of the Public Market House in Monument Square. Buy Photo
Kris Horton sells apples to a customers at her gourmet food shop at the Public Market House in Portland.
Kris Horton sells apples to a customers at her gourmet food shop at the Public Market House in Portland. Buy Photo
Over 150 varieties of cheese are sold at K. Horton Specialty Foods shop in the Public Market House in Portland. The shop carries many Maine-made cheeses as well as these international offerings.
Over 150 varieties of cheese are sold at K. Horton Specialty Foods shop in the Public Market House in Portland. The shop carries many Maine-made cheeses as well as these international offerings. Buy Photo
A roast beef sandwich served on fresh bread is one of the popular items on the menu at Big Sky Bread in the Public Market House in Portland.
A roast beef sandwich served on fresh bread is one of the popular items on the menu at Big Sky Bread in the Public Market House in Portland. Buy Photo
Ann Barrengos (left) and Antonia Leapolda, both of Portland, clink a toast to their day downtown before enjoying coffee in the Public Market House in Portland.
Ann Barrengos (left) and Antonia Leapolda, both of Portland, clink a toast to their day downtown before enjoying coffee in the Public Market House in Portland.
Fresh-baked breads are displayed at the Big Sky Bread shop in the Public Market House in Portland.
Fresh-baked breads are displayed at the Big Sky Bread shop in the Public Market House in Portland. Buy Photo
A neon sign glows in the evening near the coffee shop on the second floor of the Public Market House in Portland.
A neon sign glows in the evening near the coffee shop on the second floor of the Public Market House in Portland.
Ace Ali (left) and Muhamed Jamal, both 18, start their day off with a game of chess at the Public Market House.
Ace Ali (left) and Muhamed Jamal, both 18, start their day off with a game of chess at the Public Market House. Buy Photo
The Belfast Brewing Co., brewers of the Lobster Ale, are one of about 80 Maine suppliers featured at the Public Market House in Portland.
The Belfast Brewing Co., brewers of the Lobster Ale, are one of about 80 Maine suppliers featured at the Public Market House in Portland. Buy Photo
A shopper picks produce while a delivery arrives in the evening at Public Market House in Portland.
A shopper picks produce while a delivery arrives in the evening at Public Market House in Portland. Buy Photo
Rhonda Weaver of Harpswell takes a call while babysitting her 8-month-old grandson Asa in the Public Market House. Each month the market features the work of a local artist. Photographer Kevin Ouellete's series of portraits is currently on display.
Rhonda Weaver of Harpswell takes a call while babysitting her 8-month-old grandson Asa in the Public Market House. Each month the market features the work of a local artist. Photographer Kevin Ouellete's series of portraits is currently on display. Buy Photo
An &quotEnergy Ball" consisting of nuts, chocolate, flax, peanut butter and honey, is served with coffee at Market House Coffee on the second floor of the Public Market House.
An "Energy Ball" consisting of nuts, chocolate, flax, peanut butter and honey, is served with coffee at Market House Coffee on the second floor of the Public Market House. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — When the Portland Public Market closed down in 2006, Kris Horton and a couple of other vendors couldn’t let the dream of an inner-city market die.

“None of us really wanted to go and set up shop on our own, so it was either choosing to close or rebuild something in terms of what we believed in,” she said.

What they believed in became the Public Market House, a small-scale community gathering place that houses seven vendors and a community kitchen at 28 Monument Square. An eighth vendor is moving in soon.

“Our No. 1 goal is incubating small businesses, bringing fresh products into the center of the city,” said Horton, who runs a gourmet cheese and produce shop on the market’s first floor. Other businesses on the first floor are Big Sky Breads and a beer-and-beverage seller.

The market expanded to a second floor two years ago. Vendors include Kamasouptra soups, Pie in the Sky pizza and an espresso bar. Granny’s Burritos, which closed its restaurant in the Old Port a couple years ago, recently came back to life at the Public Market.

The market also promotes local artists. This month Portland photographer Kevin Paul Ouellette’s large, black-and-white portraits of the city’s homeless are on display. On a recent afternoon another photographer sold her work from a table rented for $10 a day.

The market counts on more than 80 Maine growers, producers and makers to supply their shops.

“We don’t view ourselves as competing with Whole Foods or Hannaford. We don’t have a chance,” said Horton. “But on the other hand, they wouldn’t want to be doing what we’re doing. We deal with suppliers who are very seasonal, very irregular with their products, with very small quantities.”

In the five years that they’ve been open, eight businesses have gotten their start at the Public Market. Four of those have moved on to bigger locations.

“It’s a joy and a sadness because it puts us in a precarious position each time [a vendor leaves]. But that’s our mission,” she said.

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