Squirrel Hill isn’t wanting much as far as amenities go, but when Pittsburgh ex-pat Alec Rieger moved to the neighborhood a little over a year ago after nearly 20 years elsewhere, he had one burning question.
Where the heck is this neighborhood’s farmers market?
Rieger, one of the co-founders of RustBuilt and a Mt. Lebanon native, is rectifying the problem and quickly. With help from Citiparks, he’s organized Squirrel Hill’s first farmers market in recent memory. It will debut June 1 and run every Sunday in the parking lot between Bartlett and Beacon Streets (behind the former Gullifty’s) through at least November 23, though Rieger, hearkening back to his decade spent in New York City, would love to see it stick around through the holiday season.
“I’d like to extend it out a little further,” he says. “Holiday markets are phenomenal. These are all models that I’m missing from New York City. If you’re in Union Square or Columbus Circle around the holidays, there are all these stalls and folks come out and sell their wares.”
Though it’ll be an opportunity for Squirrel Hillers to get fresh, organic produce and other items which might have previously forced them to visit similar markets in Highland Park, Oakland or Bloomfield, Rieger says he sees it as way more than just a place to buy ingredients for dinner — he envisions it as a sort of primordial soup of community and economic development.
“We’re looking to develop a community event and tie in the community as much as we can. It’s not just about the organic broccoli, it’s about community development,” he says. “Once you get people together, you can leverage the power of the collectivity. This market is a first step toward placemaking. It’s about bringing people together in a fun, informal way and using that as a jumping off point to tackle the bigger challenges.”
Rieger added that because it’s the market’s first year, waiting until June to start will allow it to wow customers with the full throng of summer produce from the outset. It will have a full complement of 20 vendors, though Rieger says he’d like to keep some room to expand — something he’ll worry about in the coming years.
For now, Rieger says he’s eager to create “space for people to be able to congregate.”