Detroit’s flag carries two women and two Latin mottos: Speramus meliora and Resurget cineribus, translated as “We hope for better things,” and “It will rise from the ashes.” These powerful lines were written by Gabriel Richard after the city burned to the ground in 1805. Though it’s been more than a century since that devastating fire, the twin mottos remain surprisingly fitting today.
Seemingly immune to the Motor City’s economic struggles, the city’s two famous markets—the Detroit Produce Terminal and the Eastern Market—have continued to thrive even in the bleakest days of Detroit’s recession.
A Powerful Duo
For decades, the Detroit Produce Terminal and the Eastern Market have been fundamental to the success of Michigan’s produce industry. Although outsiders often assume the two markets are competitors, local produce professionals say this isn’t the case. “The two markets cooperate more than compete,” Daniel S. Carmody president of the Eastern Market in downtown Detroit, explains.
“The Eastern Market is a mixed use commercial district with a majority of food processing and distribution businesses, but with a growing number of food retailers, restaurants, and nonfood retailing,” Carmody says. “It is more of a niche market featuring Michigan, Ontario, and Ohio growers during the local season (June through November) while the Detroit Produce Terminal operates year round with product from global suppliers.”
“There’s never really been a rivalry there,” agrees Dominic Russo, in buying and sales management with Rocky Produce, Inc., a distributor on the Detroit Produce Terminal. Rather, it seems there is camaraderie and a bit of sentimentality according to Nate Stone, general manager and COO of Ben B. Schwartz & Sons, Inc., at the Detroit Produce Terminal: “This terminal is so old, probably the primary advantage is the familiarity to the owners, the people who work here, and the sense of history you get when you walk down the halls,” he comments. “It’s more of a nostalgia thing.”
A Bevy of Benefits
Because Detroit is home to a booming independent food retailer scene, wholesalers on the markets reap the advantages. “We have a high volume of fruits and vegetables that go to the independents,” Russo says. “It’s really interesting to see the quality and different products that come in and out of the terminal.” Though he’s been in the business for many years, he still says, “It’s impressive.”
The Eastern Market also enjoys a favorable location. “We have a strong cluster of food businesses, with 120 around the market and more than 200 under the market sheds, and have developed a strong eco-system to support the incubation and acceleration of food businesses,” Carmody says. He adds that the market also benefits from the diversity of crops grown in Michigan and nearby Southwest Ontario.