In a city plagued by segregation and suspicion, Eastern Market is a shining example of all that Detroit is capable of achieving. Every Saturday thousands of visitors travel to the public market that has been in operation since 1891. In the past few years, the formerly flagging area has been transformed into a vibrant and popular meeting place. The streets are full of diverse groups of people from across the region (and in recent years the country) coming to check out an array of locally sourced produce, meats, baked goods and other delicacies. Local shops that have been around for generations and businesses that have opened in recent years are bursting with customers (don’t let the lines scare you -they move fast). The feel (crowded streets), sound (street performers of all kinds) and smell (a blend of food trucks, restaurants and vendors) at Eastern Market gives visitors an exciting big city feel.
I love going to Eastern Market and it’s my favorite place to take people who seldom go to Detroit. The friendly, safe and fun environment instantly dilutes preconceived notions about what the city is and forces people to recognize Detroit’s potential. I feel that it is impossible to do a Detroit blog without highlighting Eastern Market, for that reason I intend to talk to as many people associated with the market as I can and bring their stories to Carried Away.
First up: James Jessup of Pie Guys Bakery!
James and his wife operate Pie Guys Bakery from their farm in South Haven, Michigan on the west side of the state. A self taught baker, James was inspired to get into the pie business because he felt there was an unmet demand for quality baked goods. Pie Guys offers a variety of fruit pies and sources its ingredients from local farmers. Most of the fruit is grown within 5 miles of the Jessup’s farm either by themselves or their neighbors. The one exception is the pineapple for the pineapple and mango pie.
Pie Guys Bakery has been an Eastern Market staple for 4 years but James’ history with the venue goes back 10 as he worked for a neighbor who sold apples at the market. He’s seen a lot of changes take place in that time. When James started going to the market it was where local Detroiters went for produce because there were few alternatives. Today, it’s a tourist destination. James told me that he’s witnessed an increasing number of visitors who travel from Ohio and Indiana to Detroit for the weekend simply to experience a Saturday at Eastern Market.
James is encouraged by the market’s progress but expresses concern about the future of farming. The increased costs associated with farming and the burden mass production places on small farmers is putting a lot of people out of business. James notes that when he went into baking it was considered a lost art. Now people are starting to demand higher quality in their baked goods and a change in supply is noticeable. It would be nice to see a similar resurgence in the farming business.
Interview aside, I stopped by the Pie Guys’ stand for dessert for Sunday dinner with Mr. B. In order to get the house’s best I requested James’ personal favorite. I was delighted to hear it was the rhubarb custard because it was the one I most wanted to try. I’d never had rhubarb and wanted to experiment with something new. It was delicious! I generally find fruit pies to be too sweet/syrupy and their crust drowning in butter. The rhubarb pie avoided all of these pitfalls and I would deem it a guilt-free pleasure! We’ll definitely be back and next time I think we’ll try the strawberry rhubarb pie.