Destinations: Reading Terminal Market

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Good Friday, March 30th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard … For 1-hundred-25 years, shoppers have headed to the Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philadelphia for fresh produce, meat, and other local goods.

EICHER: The market was hit hard by the Depression, World War 2, and post-war urban decay. But it did manage to survive. And today the Reading Terminal Market is one of Philly’s most popular tourist attractions.

REICHARD: Kristen Flavin recently visited the iconic market and brings us this report as part of our occasional Destinations series.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the Reading Terminal Market. It’s 78-thousand square feet—that’s about the size of 15 NBA-size basketball courts. Inside are 74 individual shops laid out on a grid. They sell fresh fish and meat, candy, baked goods, coffee, produce, and — of course — Philly Cheesesteaks.

The aisles are crowded with people…Businesses display signs warning shoppers not to loiter and block the view of their products.

But it’s hard not to stop and gawk because there’s just so much to see and smell and hear—and taste.

Near the 12th Street entrance is an oyster bar selling oyster everything. I’m talking fresh oysters, fried oysters, oyster stew,  and oyster sliders.

Across the way is a shop selling cookies and tempting me with the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip ones. And on the other side, a chocolate shop and a Thai food restaurant.

Overhead, neon signs advertise pork and beef, falafel and shawarma, fresh and cooked seafood.

But beware. If you buy lunch, you’ll probably have to walk and eat. The whole place has only five eating areas—and finding a table during peak business hours is hard.

Part of the mission of the Reading Terminal Market is to celebrate the diversity of Philadelphia’s citizens. Nowhere is that more visible than the number of Amish shopkeepers. In their Amish hats and dresses, they stand out.

AUDIO: This is just the way we dress, it’s not a costume. It happens to be the way we dress.

That’s Moses Smucker. For the past 9 years, he and his family have run Smucker’s Quality Meats and Grill.

AUDIO » Most Philadelphians are now used to it, to us because there’s more Amish people that are business people and they kind of mix in with other people. So we don’t stand out as far as the local people are concerned, but to the outsiders we probably do, maybe.

Every morning someone drives him from his home in Lancaster.

AUDIO: We live about 55 miles from here and so every morning… Like, we got up this morning at 4 o’clock and left at 4:30 just because of the parade. We normally leave at 5:30.

The Smucker booth sits next to a Cajun cafe and across from a produce counter. The Smuckers used to sell fresh meat, but discovered there was too much competition. Now they sell jerky … 22 flavors of it.

AUDIO: Deer jerky, that’s the most expensive jerky we have, cracked pepper, honey stung, then we have honey stung pork and applewood pork. We’re closing out the applewood, so we have a sale on that right now. Sweet and spicy teriyaki, desert fire, spicy cajun, hot and spicy, sweet and spicy, yeah, sweet and spicy beef jerky. Old Bay, barbecue, honey barbecue, hickory smoked and mesquite. And so you can tell we have a few flavors.

Like the other Amish merchants, his shop is one of 17 closed on Sundays—and that’s something Reading Terminal Market notes on its website.

AUDIO: Because we are Christian and so we believe Sunday — Sunday’s our Holy Day and that’s when we go to church. So we are not open Sunday.

But otherwise the Smuckers and the Reading Terminal Market’s other 73 merchants are selling to local residents and tourists—just like their predecessors have done in this place for the past 1-hundred-25 years.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin reporting from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(Photo/Kristen Flavin)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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