Rochester Public Market unifies community with homegrown produce

The Rochester Public Market, part of the City of Rochester’s Department of Recreation and Youth Services, has served the local community since 1905.

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 52 weeks a year, local vendors share fresh produce, prepared dishes, handcrafted items and their own stories, too.

Kirby’s Cider Mill continues tradition

The Kirby family has a strong history with the Rochester Public Market, attending for at least 60 years, according to owner Robert Kirby.

The Albion, N.Y. mill began in 1878 when Kirby’s Irish great grandfather purchased land after he developed miner’s lung from working in a coal mine. Kirby and his brothers share four farms totaling between 2,000 and 3,000 acres surrounding the Rochester area.

The Kirby family grows every vegetable and fruit you can in New York according to Kirby, including apples, cabbage, sour cherries and onions.

“The way we survive is being diversified,” Kirby said.

Juan and Maria’s Empanada Stop offers unique street food

Juan and Maria’s Empanada Stop is another business with deep roots at the Rochester Public Market, approaching 13 years of food service.

The business began when Maria Contrera gave empanadas to her husband Juan to eat at work. Juan’s coworkers soon began asking for them, too, according to manager and main cook Bart Robello.

“It smelled different, it looked different, they didn’t know what it was,” he said.

In 2000, the Contreras rented a small building within the Rochester Public Market grounds and established Juan and Maria’s Empanada Stop. In 2003, the Contreras expanded and bought its current location, two doors down from the original building.

Ten empanada varieties populate the menu, with beef and onions and breakfast as the top two favorites among customers. Other dishes include rice and beans, sandwiches and homemade Spanish fruit juices.

“There’s nothing in Rochester quite like what we do,” Robello said. “This is … different and unusual and I like that we can present such a wide variety of flavors and ingredients.”

Go Veggies, Inc. dedicates itself to nutritious options

In his 15th year at the Rochester Public Market, Go Veggies Inc. owner Genga Ponnampalam continues to share his gluten-free and vegan food.

“We’re 100 percent vegetarian because in this world right now [there are] a lot of problems going on in health,” Ponnampalam said. “The meat is the biggest problem.”

Ponnampalam creates burgers, salads, curries and smoothies from local ingredients. His food is also available at Go Veggies Café in Buffalo.

Ponnampalam said he hopes to reach more college students. He said many students already purchase his products due to what he said was poor mass-produced food served on college campuses.

In Ponnampalam’s products, he said you can see each ingredient.

“Seeing is believing,” he said.

Small World Food combines tradition with fresh ingredients

Rochester Institute of Technology graduate Luke Stodola said he and his and friends wanted to put their food out there and established Small World Food in 2007.

Located in downtown Rochester, the business is owned and operated by the workers, keeping the efforts and revenue local.

Small World Food participates in other local markets, according to Stodola, but the Rochester Public Market has benefits for worker-owners.

“There’s a lot of different kind of people that come here,” Stodola said. “It’s great to see the same people every single week … just to have that community connection.”

Small World Food is a bakery, fermentery and ice creamery. With local organic ingredients and traditional techniques, Small World Food creates bread, kimchi, ice cream sandwiches and more.

 The market is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturdays from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Market is open additional days and hours during the holidays and for special events.