Liz Morningstar—former secretary of cabinet affairs for Governor Deval Patrick and current CEO of the forthcoming Boston Public Market opening July 30—is something of a bon vivant when it comes to grocery shopping. In fact, she’s obsessed.
“I don’t care about shoes, I’m not that big of a clothes shopper, but I love to grocery shop,” she says. “Love fresh produce … the smell of it, [and] I love to look at it,” she says. “I don’t pretend to be a big foodie, I’m not a snob … that’s not my thing. [Grocery shopping] is a totally overwhelming, beautiful experience. I know that sounds crazy, but I believe that.”
It’s not that crazy. If the proliferation of expensive organic markets and the cult of shops like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are any metric, there are a lot of other people just like her. Moreover, the ground shift of how people are buying food and what food they’re buying is continuing to lean toward products that are traceable to the source and organic, especially in urban environments dominated by the millennial sect. Which is why Morningstar has been spearheading this project with her sights firmly set on bringing a kind of melting pot, mixed-use (there will be a 3,200-square-foot demonstration and test kitchen with public events), and 100 percent New England-sourced epicurean wonderland to the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
The market will house over 30 and represent over 65 local farmers, butchers, fishmongers, cheese makers, cider wizards, masters of chocolate (Somerville’s Taza will have a huge chocolate milling station on site), and more, but will also serve as a testing ground for start-up culinary projects (see: hand-pulled Japanese-style ramen from Noodle Lab), as well as market extensions of local favorites (see: Bon Me, Mother Juice, Union Square Donuts). Hopster’s Brew and Boards of Newton will also be opening a retail-only storefront for local craft beer and spirits.
But the appeal here isn’t just for the die-hard localvores, but also those who don’t even consider eating local. “I’m actually more interested in the people who aren’t, and they come in here and they’re like, ‘You mean I could eat meat that is all from Mass? I just didn’t think that was possible,’” she says. “[It’s an] educational experience … you can show how things are being made.”
The project’s origin dates back to 2001 and the formation of the Boston Public Market Association. In 2011 the location (directly over the Haymarket MBTA station) was chosen to embolden the nascent Market District, including the abutting Haymarket open-air market outside its doors, which has been in operation for over 180 years.
And the history of that area wasn’t lost on Morningstar, either. She insists that she has kept a watchful eye on every stage of the project since coming on board in 2013 to ensure this wouldn’t ultimately be a privately funded (to the tune of $9 million in donations), city-supported endeavor that would land in the neighborhood and spell doom for the historic produce market.
“This is a state project, [and] Haymarket has been here for years,” she says. “They’re important [and] their history is important to me personally.” Still, it goes without saying that even the prospect of a negative impact on a longstanding neighborhood farmer’s market that largely sees the local immigrant population manning the carts and doing their produce shopping is enough to turn most people sour.
“Over time I think [the local Haymarket vendors] have seen already the impact and the additional customers that are down here, and it is a good thing,” says Morningstar. “But I will say to you what I said to my board and the commission: If we succeed and Haymarket doesn’t, we have failed. It is important that they remain, they succeed, that they thrive.”
BOSTON PUBLIC MARKET. OPENS JULY 30. 100 HANOVER ST., BOSTON. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT BOSTONPUBLICMARKET.ORG
Dan is a freelance journalist and has written for publications including Vice, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, MEL, Leafly, Thrillist, and DigBoston.