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Lancaster's Southern Market announces selection of first three chefs for multi-cultural food hub

Jonathan "JP" Forbes, Jessie Tuno, and Bushra Fakier are the first of 10 chefs that will have stands in the market when it opens early next year, developers say.
Credit: Willow Valley Communities
Chefs Jonathan "JP" Forbes, Jessie Tuno, and Bushra Fakier are the first of 10 chefs who will have stands at Lancaster's Southern Market when the renovated space opens early next year.

LANCASTER, Pa. — Southern Market, a Lancaster landmark since its construction in the 19th century at Queen and Vine streets in the city's downtown area, is undergoing a complete renovation that will turn it into a multi-cultural food and community hub when it opens early next year.

On Thursday, Southern Market announced the selection of the first three chef vendors for the food hall.

The selected vendors are:

  • Jessie Tuno, owner of Butter and Bean–a cafe specializing in creative coffees, espressos and sumptuous fresh baked goods and pastries. Coffees will include many specialty blends that are full of bold flavors and tastesalong with familiar coffeehouse standards.
  • Bushra Fakier, owner of Flavors of Morocco –providingan authentic and delicious Moroccan experience by cooking with the best and freshest ingredients while adding a flair of Indian fusion.
  • Jonathan ”JP” Forbes, owner of  ‘X’ Marks the Spot –serving a menu of modern classic southern soul food. 

Southern Market is expected to become one of Lancaster’s most popular food locations for local, regional, and international menu choices when it opens. A total of ten local and diverse chefs, new or already established, will be selected as the food hall stand holders. 

Applications are currentlybeing accepted for additional chefs to join the initial three appointments, Southern Market said. 

The goal for Southern Market is to become a “jobs pipeline” for the Lancaster community and the food hall and its vendors to reflect and support the community that it surrounds. 

The chefs chosen will have a particular cooking talent or specialty, but don’t necessarily have their own restaurant because they may not yet have the resources or business experience to start one. 

"The 10 chefs will work at individual stations, or stands, at Southern Market in a busy and exciting open environment, where they will serve their own special menu items," Southern Market said. "While working at the food hall, they will get support, training, and experience that may allow them to open their own restaurant or catering business in the future.

"When that happens, another up-and-coming chef can take their place at Southern Market."

Willow Valley Communities, the developer and operator of Southern Market, is partnering with Lancaster Equity, the non-profit collaborative that owns Southern Market, and ASSETS, which will provide start-up support and industry-specific training. 

"This unified effort will fulfill a long-held vision of creating a space that offers opportunity for all and further advances Lancaster Equity’s mission of a 'community where everyone has an opportunity to thrive,'" Southern Market said.

In addition to its current training, lending, and consulting offerings, ASSETS’ new innovative training focused specifically on the food industry will support a growing roster of small culinary startups and provide support to those interested in becoming a food hall vendor. 

This training will initially focus on the Southern Market food hall vendors, but will eventually grow to include other food-based entrepreneurs who need ASSETS’ support. 

A large bar, to be named Bar 1888, will be located in the center of Southern Market. 

Along with the multicultural food hall and bar, the new Southern Market will become a community hub with offices, public spaces, stores, and a coffee shop.

Meeting spaces will be open for the community to use for a variety of reasons.

In addition to the broad Lancaster area community, the Southern Market project is designed to serve the neighbors who live nearby. The partnership among Willow Valley Communities, ASSETS, and Lancaster Equity is committed to the positive impact and transformation of the Queen and Vine intersection and through this renovation seeks to bring more jobs, more business, and more gathering places for the Lancaster residents who live there.

John G. Swanson, CEO of Willow Valley Living, the company that manages Willow Valley Communities, said 

“We believe that within the Lancaster City community there are talented entrepreneurs who, when given the right resources, can create self-sufficient businesses for all of Lancaster to enjoy," said John G. Swanson, CEO of Willow Valley Living, the company that manages Willow Valley Communities.

“ASSETS believes that Southern Market is integral to our work," said Tina Campbell, CEO of ASSETS. "The building sits at the fulcrum between an economically-thriving corridor of Lancaster and areas that have historically been disinvested economically. We believe that this building can help create equitable economic growth in the city and that our vision of an equitable and prosperous economy that works for everyone can best be fulfilled in this space.”

Those interested in applying for a vendor stand in the food hall should visit the Southern Market website for more information about the food hall. The application process is available in English, Spanish, and other languages.

In preparation for opening early next year, Willow Valley Communities is also hiring for numerous new jobs needed to operate Southern Market. Open positions include servers, bartenders, administrative roles in hospitality, concierge, and events coordinator. 

Staffing and training will be coming soon to accommodate up to 175 food hall customers, including running the large Bar 1888, which is expected to be popular among locals and Lancaster visitors. 

Interested job seekers may visit www.southernmarketlancaster.com/jobs to apply.

Southern Market was designed by renowned Lancaster architect C. Emlen Urban and was originally built in 1888. Its extensive renovation is being coordinated by Willow Valley Communities and includes all-new mechanical systems and repointing of brickwork. 

Willow Valley Communities is the largest provider of senior living in Lancaster with more than 2,500 residents. According to state statistics, it is the 13th largest employer in the county, with nearly 1,400 full-time and part-time workers.  

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