Retooled Eastern Market Ready for Reopening

By Martin Ricard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 26, 2009

The clanking and whizzing of power tools can be heard from blocks away. Delivery trucks roll by, their honking horns announcing the next arrival of produce.

All the while, vendors frantically rush inside the Victorian red brick building, tying strings on slabs of meat, snipping flowers and neatly packaging crafts in anticipation of the Big Day on Seventh and C streets SE.

In the middle of this dance, an assembly line of deliverymen marches in with more than a dozen crates of sausage, weaving through people in hard hats putting the last touches on the interior.

"Where we at? Where we at?" asks one, his head flicking from side to side as he looks for the appropriate vendor.

This was Eastern Market as it prepared for its grand opening, which features a ribbon-cutting at 10:30 this morning. Everyone from the vendors to the street sweepers has been working round-the-clock to ensure the Capitol Hill food hall reopens without a glitch two years after a fire gutted it.

"We'll be ready," said Bill Glasgow, whose Union Meat section bustled with workers pulling legs of lamb and French roast out of the freezer and prepping them for the displays.

He is adjusting to the new look and feel of the market, saying the air-conditioning cut about 18 inches from all of the vendors' spaces.

Outside, people gawked at the facade as they passed the market's green awnings. A few tried to sneak a peak inside, but they were quickly shooed away so as not to spoil the surprise.

Mary Muschette was content staying outside. She snapped photographs around the building, smiling as each new detail brought back memories from her childhood. Her mother used to shop there with her 12 children, and each child would leave carrying a bag full of vegetables and other goodies.

"It's wonderful. It's so much better than it was before because of the fixtures put inside, the roofing, the walls," Muschette said. "A lot has been done to it.

"But it's still the same market."

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