The difference between these two markets seems to stem from two fundamental differences – one operational, one architectural. The first is that Lancaster Central Market is a 3-day operation, open only on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, and consequently sellers are predominately merchants with other businesses. The stalls are outposts of farms, coffee roasters and bakeries, rather than the individual businesses one sees at Reading. As for architectural character, Lancaster’s soaring ceiling departs from the bustling anonymity of a large city, instead uniting a community of members under one roof. On the Saturday that I visited the sense of familiarity between merchants was evident, as was the rapport between merchants and customers. This is a market that does not have to live at a metropolitan pace. Instead, many stalls seem to be family enterprises with a diversity of ages behind the counter. One can feel the traditions being passed from generation to generation at Lancaster.
The position of the two markets within their cities is also of interest. Lancaster’s developed off the city’s main intersection behind the former City Hall. It is at once at the center of things and yet tucked away. In Philadelphia, Reading Terminal’s location is the natural result of the railroad’s intrusion into the city – also in a sense logically tucked away in its base. Both markets are joyous wandering places to visit and to study how we engage in the most basic of human endeavors: shopping for food and enjoying it.