Skip to main content

 Natural Awakenings Lancaster-Berks

Multicultural Southern Market Food Hall Opening in January

Nov 30, 2021 09:31AM ● By Sheila Julson
Lancaster’s Southern Market, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, will again serve as a thriving community hub centered around food. Scheduled to open January 2022, the new Southern Market will be a world-class, multicultural food hall and incubator space for restaurant startups. The venue will also have a central bar, a coffee shop, coworking desks and offices, meeting spaces, retail space and community rooms.

Originally built in 1888 as a farmers’ market, the building was the first major project designed by local architect C. Emlen Urban and operated as a marketplace until 1986. Since then, the Lancaster Chamber, the city council and the nonprofit group ASSETS, which focuses on transforming the community through ethical and inclusive business, have used the building as office space.

The Southern Market revitalization effort is led by Willow Valley Communities, Lancaster Equity and ASSETS. In 2019, Lancaster Equity purchased Southern Market with the vision of reigniting the structure's role as a community catalyst that celebrates the city’s diversity and supports local entrepreneurs.

Willow Valley Communities was brought on as a partner to manage the construction and daily operations of the building. ASSETS sits on the 20-member board of Lancaster Equity and holds permanent office space in Southern Market. Additionally, ASSETS seeks to ensure that the Southern Market food hall reflects and supports the community that surrounds it, while achieving its mission of offering business training, financing and consulting to Lancaster’s diverse business community—especially women and people of color. This includes providing startup support and training for the 10 food hall chefs involved with the project.

Along with serving the Lancaster community, the Southern Market project will be a resource for surrounding areas. The partnership among Willow Valley Communities, Lancaster Equity and ASSETS intends to make a positive impact and transform the downtown intersection of Queen and Vine through this renovation to bring more jobs, grow businesses and offer public gathering space for residents.

Supporting Diverse Entrepreneurship

Southern Market will serve as a launchpad for 10 diverse chefs working at individual stations. The thriving, open environment allows them to showcase their own special menu items. While working at the food hall, the chefs will receive the support, training and experience needed to eventually open their own restaurant, catering or pop-up business. If a chef becomes successful and leaves Southern Market, another up-and-coming chef can move into their station.

The first three confirmed chef vendors are Jessie Turno, owner of Butter and Bean, a café specializing in specialty blend coffees, espresso and scratch-made baked goods and pastries; Bushra Fakier, of Flavors of Morocco, offering foods highlighting the authentic Moroccan experience with a flair of Indian cuisine; and Jonathan “JP” Forbes, owner of ‘X’ Marks the Spot, featuring a menu of modern and classic southern soul food.

Tina Campbell, chief executive officer of ASSETS, affirms that Southern Market is integral to her organization’s work. “The building sits at the fulcrum between an economically thriving corridor of Lancaster and areas that have historically been disinvested economically,” she says. “We believe that this building can help create equitable economic growth in the city. Our vision of an equitable and prosperous economy that works for everyone can best be fulfilled in this space.”

 The mission behind Southern Market is to act as a jobs pipeline between the Lancaster community, the food hall and its vendors, and to reflect and support the surrounding community.

Southern Market is still seeking aspiring chefs with a great customer service ethic. Those interested in a startup station can apply for the vendor selection process on the website. There are many other job opportunities available at Southern Market, with a focus on hiring from within the community.

Southern Market is tentatively scheduled to operate Wednesday through Sunday), through the spring of 2022. The venue will eventually be open seven days per week once supply chain shortages ease and staffing are secured.

For more information about jobs or vendor selection, visit and To connect with ASSETS about supporting this project, contact Jobany Bedoya at [email protected] or 717-393-6089, ext 237.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.