Thursday, September 05, 2013

This Market is NOT Destroyed!

A devastating fire early Labour Day morning levelled the main building of the St. Jacobs market just north of Waterloo, Ontario. Sixty vendors occupied the two storey wood building which was packed with local shoppers and tourists on market days. I have visited many markets and very few in North America compare with this one. Tuesday's sensational newspaper headline informed us the market was destroyed and the picture appeared to confirm the announcement.

We moved to Kitchener in December 1970. My mother was a very industrious homemaker and rode her bicycle to the Kitchener Stockyards market near the railway tracks at River Rd and Hwy 7 to buy produce. At that time Kitchener had a thriving downtown outdoor market but in the early 1970s the old city hall was demolished and the market was moved to the basement of a new mall and parking garage. The soul of the Kitchener Market withered and many vendors, including Old Order Mennonites stopped selling their goods at the new market. The Kitchener Stockyard merged with the Waterloo Stockyard near St. Jacobs and a new outdoor market started to grow north of the city. A few years later the main market building was constructed and the market expanded quickly becoming a major tourist attraction.

Hot apple fritters were worth the drive to the market
When our children were young I took them to the Stockyard Market most Thursdays. They loved to walk the catwalk above the livestock pens in the auction building (no longer possible) and we bought apple fritters or mini donuts for a treat. The lineup for apple fritters usually extended far out the doorway in the middle picture.

Inside the building after the fire and before the fire
The open concept two storey market building had food vendors downstairs and craft vendors upstairs. It was a challenge to move through the aisles on Saturday mornings as people crowded around counters waiting for their turn to be served.
Outside the building before and after the fire
Vendors selling food, clothing, and household goods had stalls under the porches of the market building. There is an extensive outdoor market and the auction building houses a flea market, general merchandise and another food court.

Today the market re-opened just three days after the fire and I arrived early before work. Some vendors were still unpacking but I quickly found the fresh apples and tomatoes I wanted.

The heat of the fire damaged a nearby Conestoga wagon and signs at the entrance to the auction building. The firemen did a good job of keeping the fire from spreading to other structures.

Today's market was a celebration of harvest, of life and perseverance. The community came out to support the three hundred remaining vendors. The sixty vendors affected by the fire suffered significant losses but people are rallying to help them through this crisis.

This market is not a building. It is made up of people who sell and buy and meet with friends. Burned posts stand in the background but life goes on in the foreground.

Don't believe the newspaper headline. It was written by someone who does not feel the heartbeat of this community. This market is NOT destroyed! 


  1. Always a pleasure to see a community come together after something like a fire. That's what's happening in my little town of Yarnell also. Looks like a great market.

  2. This was a very small fire compared to what your community suffered! It is true that the best of human nature often shows when there is loss.

  3. Great to see how quickly they rallied. All the colourful tents look great.

  4. It is sad to see the market destroyed,but encouraging to see that it is already up and running again.

  5. Good to know. I once visited the old market.

  6. Ruth--I love this post. One of the delights in our travels overseas is seeing all the outdoor markets in various European cities. They don't need buildings--they set up tent stands and display their produce.
    The tents in your photos are most festive.
    Our local farmers' market suffered a catastrophic fire about 10 years ago. The new building was erected, merchants and customers returned. Not, the market is NOT destroyed.

  7. I'm glad the market goes on. Sounds like it is an important part of the community.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.