WENATCHEE — This city has a whole new tourist attraction that might bring a smile to the face of Washington’s west siders.
Pybus Public Market, which opened downtown last month in an old steel warehouse overlooking the Columbia River, features a large red sign much like the one at Seattle’s Pike Place Market to welcome visitors.
The market houses about 20 year-round restaurants and shops, including fruit stands, meat and seafood shops and specialty stores featuring flavored vinegars and oils, tea, beer, wine, nuts and home-décor items. It’s also home to the seasonal farmers market.
“We’ve called this ‘the great experiment,’ because we just don’t know how it will do,” Executive Director Steve Robinson said. “We’re taking an enormous building a football field in length and converting it to something Eastern Washington and the region hasn’t seen before.”
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The warehouse was built in 1946 by Elias Thomas Pybus, a blacksmith whose business grew to include metal fabrication, machine work and welding.
The business furnished steel for construction at the Hanford nuclear reservation and Northwest dams until the company was sold in the 1960s.
The Port of Chelan County bought the building in 2010 with plans to build a market.
The owners of a local transportation company, Mike and JoAnn Walker, donated $2.7 million to refurbish the warehouse, and the city of Wenatchee and the Port of Chelan County received $1.4 million in federal grants.
Michelle Lak and Francis Saint Dennis, both chefs from Seattle who went on to take over the kitchen at Chelan winery Vin du Lac, have realized a dream by opening their own restaurant in the market. The pair walk through the market each morning, buying fresh meat and produce for the specials on the menu.
“When this opportunity came about, we jumped at it,” Lak said. “We’re really having fun with it.”
The market opened for business May 11, and a grand-opening celebration is scheduled for June 22. It’s open seven days a week.
Robinson said plans include bike races, fun runs and other events on the nearby Apple Loop Trail.
Robinson acknowledged that nobody knows yet how the market will fare in the doldrums of winter.
“That’s what I call the Tuesday in February question: When we have 6 inches of snow outside, and it’s windy, and it’s dark at 4 p.m., how will the community and visitors react to Pybus then?” he asked.
“We know that will be a challenge, but so far, we think it’s a challenge we can face.”