Food, music, specialty products, and community…it’s all at the Pybus Public Market in Wenatchee, Washington.
Pybus Public Market may not have “flying fish” like Seattle’s famous Pike Street Market, but it does have an Airstream trailer café, a flatbed rail car and bike rentals. Its official opening ceremony on June 22, 2013, added exciting new opportunities for the community and delicious options for foodies.
Wenatchee is buzzing with the good news about Pybus. “Let’s meet at the market” is becoming the watch phrase around town. At 8:30 a.m., yoga begins. At 10:00 a.m., mothers begin arriving with their strollers. Throughout the day and evening, people mingle, shop, and eat.
Pybus Public Market’s History
The market is named after Elias Thomas (E.T.) Pyhus, an early Wenatchee entrepreneur. Born in England, E.T. came from a long line of blacksmiths. In 1911, the 37-year old arrived in Wenatchee. A year later, he purchased a blacksmith shop where he worked on wagons, machinery, welding, and fabricating metal.
Thirty-four years later, E.T. hauled scrap steel from Pasco, Washington, to Wenatchee’s Columbia River front. He built an enormous steel warehouse. The business thrived for many years, producing steel for northwest dams, shipyards, and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. His Pybus Steel Company was sold in the 1960’s and Pybus died in 1961 at age 88. In 2010, the Port of Chelan County purchased his vacant steel warehouse with the vision of developing a public market.
As Mike and JoAnn Walker worked out at the gym across the street from the old building, Mike had fond memories of the steel mill from his youth. He was worried that it might be torn down. He decided he’d make his own legacy by developing the public market idea. Now, Mike and JoAnn just needed to figure out financing.
The city of Wenatchee, a federal grant, a financier called the Eagle Group as well as Mike and JoAnn financed the project. The Walkers invested $3 million of their own money for the market. The total cost was $10 million.
One year later, their dream came true. Today, Pybus Public Market thrives in E.T.’s original site overlooking the Columbia River.
Vendors, Musicians and Artisan Restaurants
Walking into the market, I sensed excitement from vendors and visitors alike. When I asked people what they thought of their new market, the answer was a universal, “I love it.”
Pybus is open 362 days a year. The market is air-conditioned in summer and will be heated in the winter. This renovated 28,000 sq. ft. steel mill stands tall, proud to be resurrected. Its pride is reflected in its 20 merchants, restaurants, artisans, specialty stores and the Wenatchee Valley Farmer’s Market.
As I walked through the stalls, saxophone music wafted throughout the market. Visitors strolled, ate, and conversed. I met a group of women, friends for 26 years, who were enjoying eating at ‘South,’ a popular Mexican restaurant at the Market.
Friends Judie Leshick and Janet Rogers ambled through the market, laughing with each other. Teens walked by on their way to the Sweet Shoppe. A young boy and his mother stopped for gelatos at ‘Ice.’ After debating, they decided on ‘birthday cake’ flavor.
The Visconti Restaurant, a well-known area favorite and 2013 Restaurant of the Year, is well represented at the market. Its ‘Fire’ features an Italian oven for wood-fired pizzas; ‘Ice’ is known for creamy, silky gelatos. Owners Dan Carr and Candy Mecham use only the freshest, local ingredients in their Italian meals with family recipes handed down for generations.
With Pybus Bistro, Frank Dennis and Michelle Lak offer a true taste of Paris. Their rustic, French flaire food uses the freshest ingredients in specialties such as the Croque Madame sandwich (grilled ham and cheese with a fried or poached egg on top).
Some of the other specialty merchants offering everything from gifts to groceries include Cha, D’Olivo, Almond Blossom (roasted nuts), Jones (award-winning wine), Ruby Marz Bakery, Mike’s Meats and Seafoods, Auvil’s Select Fruit, The County Store, Royal Produce, Full Bloom Flowers and Plants, and L.A. Market.
Artist Lance Dooley is completing an eight-foot bronze statue of E.T. Pybus. Nearby, a $150,000 commercial food demonstration kitchen is being constructed that will be used for cooking classes.
Even More Out and About
Outside the Market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, 35 farmers and artisans bring fresh foods and artisan crafts to sell. Nearby, a teacher couple serves coffee, pastry and sandwiches out of their ‘Rivet’ vintage 31 ft. Airstream trailer. Picnic benches on the grass let customers enjoy ‘Java Jam’ live music. A flatbed railroad car sits on original tracks with speakers for musicians and speakers.
Nearby is Arlberg’s bicycle rentals. If I’d have had more time, I’d have loved to rent a bike for the 10-mile paved Apple Loop Trail along the Columbia River. Next to the bike rental, a huge metal cooler will store uneaten foods from the market that will provide food for the needy community.
If you come to Wenatchee, you can’t miss the market with its fire engine red sign, “Public Market,” and flags flying at the entrance. Pybus lies two blocks east of historic downtown Wenatchee and converges at the Loop Trail, Riverfront Park, and Orondo Boat Basin. This exciting community market with delicious local foods, artisans, quality restaurants, specialties and much more is worth a visit. — Story and photos by Sandra Kennedy, RFT Contributor
If You Go:
Pybus Public Market
7 Worthen St., Wenatchee, WA
Open 7 days a week, 362 days a year
Special thanks to Marriott Springhill Suites, to Gerry Ailto for his tour, and all connected with the market, who made this community dream come true.