Anne Saxelby was a tireless Essex Street Market advocate

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Over the past week, many tributes have been paid to Anne Saxelby, the pioneer cheesemaker who died far too young on October 9 at the age of 40. Saxelby, who opened a small stall in the Essex Street Market in 2006, has been instrumental in changing perceptions. on fine American cheeses. But she also had a huge impact on the Lower East Side by helping to keep the historic market going through some very difficult years and laying the groundwork for her fellow vendors to be successful in the new Essex Market, which opened in 2019.

Saxelby Cheesmongers didn’t make the move to the new market, but its influence in the sprawling space in front of the original market building is felt today.

Starting in 2011, Saxelby began to use some of his influence in the New York food world, raising his voice in favor of maintaining the 1940s building rather than tearing it down and moving the market to a new facility in the Essex Crossing mega-complex.

In passionate plea at the time, Saxelby said moving the market would “lose its historical context” but also “lose the soul and spirit of the place.” Essex Street Market and a few other markets built around the same time, she argued, “let’s go back to a time when the city was building public markets to support communities.” More recently, Saxelby added, the market had evolved, with new vendors moving in alongside the older ones, but through it all, the Essex Street Market remained “a bastion of community”, full of unique and small businesses. dynamics that meet needs. a diverse clientele.

The battle to save the building was lonely and ultimately unsuccessful. The move to a larger, brighter, modernized facility may very well have strengthened many long-standing suppliers and supported the market for a new generation (time will tell). After the town’s victory, Saxelby could have given up on the market, but instead she continued to defend the merchants and the market.

Essex Street Market Block Party, 2015.

She went on to run the Essex Street Market Vendor Association and often very directly criticized the negligent management of the market by the city administration. During a period in which several vendors closed their stalls as foot traffic in the market dwindled, Saxelby called for enhanced marketing programs and more responsive day-to-day management of the facility. At a community council meeting in 2015, Saxelby said: “It would be a disaster to continue with the status quo and move (to the new Essex market across the street) with a market that is for all practical purposes half-dead. “

Saxelby, along with other local stakeholders, opened a dialogue with city officials, won concessions that helped vendors survive their last few months in the old building and, just as important, was a major player in negotiations to ensure the protection of sellers in the new market building. .

Benoit Breal and Anne Saxelby from Saxelby Cheese. May 2015.

In September 2018, just a few months before the big move, Saxelby made the difficult decision to close their stand and pull out of the new market. She said it was a business decision and that she and her partner, Benoit Breal, concluded that opening up in the new space could jeopardize Saxelby Cheesemongers’ future. She concluded by saying, “The community of friends, neighbors and customers is unlike any other in New York, and it has been amazing to be a part of this community. The Essex Market was, is and will continue to be an amazing, historic and unique destination in New York City, and I wish the new market the best of luck.

Vendors and the wider Lower East Side community obviously appreciate everything Saxelby meant for the market. In an Instagram post, the owners of Shopsin’s (Saxelby’s next door neighbor in the old market) wrote: “Anne, we love you. We followed you to Essex Market and would have followed you anywhere.

Anne Saxelby’s family and friends have created the Anne Saxelby Legacy Fund to provide educational opportunities for teens and young adults in financial difficulty. Click here for more information.

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