Lunchtime bustled in a 125-year-old York City market brighter and busier Thursday than it's been in decades.
That's not to say Central Market looks drastically different than it did a year ago.
The changes are subtle, hidden more in the context of what's missing than what's been added. Market's rustic, 19th century appeal is intact and fusing with the 21st-century demand for sushi and Pennsylvania Dutch potato salad for sale in one place.
A $1.9 million renovation project completed this month has meant better lighting, fewer ugly wires and more places to set up stands like the one Arimboh Achu opened with her mother in February.
The two women, who hail originally from Cameroon, will sell African-Caribbean cuisine prepared three times a week in the rent-a-kitchen facility just a stone's throw from their Global Café business. Achu said she and her mother, Renee, started using YorKitchen about three years ago.
For the past few weeks, they've been serving breakfast and lunch to the hundreds of people who descend on Central Market each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
"We've gotten a great reception," Arimboh Achu said. "Everyone is really helpful. The vendors are very supportive."
Global Café is among the parade of new stands suddenly planting their flags at Central Market.
That's not a coincidence.
Late last year, at the height of the renovation work, the market's chief operations officer put a temporary hold on accepting new vendors.
But Casi Babinchak has re-opened the floodgates to business owners who want to locate in a market that both looks better and is, in fact, capable of renting more spaces.
Babinchak said she figures the market's vendor capacity has increased by 30, due in large part to the re-wiring of electricity, heating and plumbing systems.
For the first time in a long time, she said, Central Market is on the path to being full.
"We're going to continue to be just as thoughtful as we have been about the businesses that we're bringing in," Babinchak said. "At the rate we're going I think it's very possible to be full."
Food stands opening this month include Prima Donna's Pasta and Good's Mini Donuts. My Sweet Sins, a bakery offering pre-packaged items, opened in February.
Fresh ingredients are available at the stands operated by Springleaf Farm and Kramer at Market, both of which opened back in November. Artc Graphics, which started as a seasonal Christmas stand, has carved out a permanent space.
Two Etters-based pottery artists who recently decided to make the leap from hobby to business opened a stand Tuesday near the market's Beaver Street entrance. The owners of Clay Path Studio are selling handcrafted bowls, dishes, mugs and other functional pieces made from clay.
Brooke Teter said she and co-owner Kirsten Firlik chose Central Market because it's an "up-and-coming scene" in a comfortable atmosphere.
"There's kind of an ambiance about it," Teter said Thursday.
Eventually, the two women said, they'd like to open their own shop and gallery space.
"Until then, we really think that this is a good spot," Firlik said.
Nearby, Mike and Karen Leland of West York were just a few hours into their first day selling Amish-made goods in Central Market. Their stand, Croweo, opened Thursday.
Before opening the business, Karen Leland said she immersed herself in learning about the products she'd soon sell. For example, the couple spent a day observing how the Amish make pretzels.
"Each item needs to have a story," Karen Leland said.
- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.