Small Business Saturday is the go-to event for local holiday gift shopping… but what about local provisions for your holiday table? You’re in luck– scheduled just a few times a year, days before big holiday feasts, the Press Bay Alley Holiday Market is the go-to source of local meat, vegetables, fruit, cheese, bread, pies, syrup, honey, beverages, eggs, and other culinary bounties, plus holiday gifts! Press Bay Alley is a unique downtown Ithaca retailing experience, located on West Green Street, consisting of a series of micro-retail spaces open year round.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The 2022 Press Bay Alley Holiday Market will take place on Tuesday, November 22 from 2 PM to 6 PM.
A modest crowd, bags in hand, mills through the pop-up tents and in and out of shops in the sparkling Press Bay Alley and this year, its expansion into neighboring Press Bay Court. Most vendors are selling ingredients and supplies for your holiday meals, but you’ll also find fresh snacks and hot baked goods for immediate snacking.
HOW IT BEGAN
“The Finger Lakes Meat Project located its experimental Meat Locker project at Press Bay because we met John Guttridge (the brains behind Press Bay Alley) and he was very supportive, plus the location was ideal,” explains Matt LeRoux, Agriculture Marketing Specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Tompkins County and market organizer. “As part of our funding for the Locker, we envisioned hosting farmers' markets during Meat Locker open hours, thus, the holiday market series was born. My favorite thing about the market is that we’re all aligned in our goal of benefiting farms– the more shoppers come and spend with the farms and food producers, the greater our success.”
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL
The market nearly doubled the customer counts of previous years, with a busy but celebratory vibe among the twinkling lights strung around the vendor’s tents. The winter holidays are a special time to celebrate our local bounty, even though we’re past the classic harvest season. Special late-season crops are bountiful, and winter storage crops are ready to be squirreled away.
“Over the years, we seem to have aimed many of our farm produce and cider making at these celebratory holidays,” explains Melissa Madden, owner and farmer at Good Life Farm and a past vendor at the market. “In November we had everything from turkey to champagne-style ciders to winter salad greens, and in December we'll have our full array of Kite & String Ciders for the holiday meal and NYE celebrations, along with warming ginger, anti-inflammatory turmeric and storage apples for healthy winter eating and self-care.”
HOW TO PREPARE
Check out the list of vendors on their Facebook event, contact individual vendors with any questions, and plan your shopping around what the market has to offer! It’s important to research the vendors and place orders for meal cornerstones before you go– order ahead to pick up your locally-raised turkeys butchered to order from Park Hill Poultry, your special pies from Dearie Pies, or bread from Ithaca Breadworks.
“Make your grocery shopping list just like you normally would,” suggests Matt. “You'll be surprised how much of it can be found at our market, and among the Press Bay Alley shops. Also, prepare to feel festive, to smile, to laugh, and to learn from farmers that grew your food.”
Check your holiday gift shopping list before you go too– in addition to local bounty for your table, you can find locally-made items at Handwork, Ithaca's Artisan Cooperative, or Shop at Sparks & Embers located right at Press Bay Alley. You are also a quick walk from the Ithaca Commons, where you will find plenty of other wonderful businesses.
WHAT NOT TO MISS
In addition to your old favorites, make sure you visit some new vendors too! The Press Bay Alley markets prioritize beginning farmers and food businesses that haven’t yet had the chance to vend at some of the more visited Tompkins County farmers’ markets.
“Since I mostly sell to small local businesses or directly to customers, I don’t have a lot of interaction with a wide range of customers,” says Bethany Dixon, owner and baker at Pies & Pinups. “I love meeting new locals and chatting to them about our shared love of baking and seeking out great pastries! I think the Press Bay markets are especially wonderful because they are affordable and welcoming for new vendors, in a location filled with other small businesses that are making the downtown scene more vibrant and creative.”
Press Bay Court is the latest addition to the Press Bay area. Just on the other side of Circus Culture, the newly renovated Press Bay Court will be an extension of the holiday markets. Be sure to go the extra 20 feet to the court to ensure you visit all vendors and businesses.
Photos by Allison Usavage, allisonusavage.com.