Pike Place Market: Who Shops There?

Pike Place Market is a primo tourist stop for visitors to Seattle, but the core customer base consists of locals like me who shop there regularly for fresh produce. I walk through the market to go to and from the downtown YMCA, so I can replenish fruits and vegetables quite easily. The strawberries you see here are a fall variety grown in California, fresh picked. They are fabulously tasty and sweet. I know that Driscoll strawberries in the clear plastic box are available at most grocery stores, and they look large and red and ripe. But to me, they have very little taste.

I had an interesting conversation with the guy who runs my favorite produce stand. He said that next gen Seattle-ites are not showing up at the market like people my age. The 20 and 30-somethings who work at tech companies have their pre-prepared dinners delivered. They eat lunch at work — some places like Google even provide gourmet lunch free — and sometimes breakfast too. They pretty much don’t shop or cook, and therefore Pike Place Market is a place to bring their out of town guests, but not a place to buy food on a regular basis.

The falloff in local produce shopping among younger Seattle-ites is a secondary effect of changes in work day — much longer — changes in the perceived value of home cooking, and the ease of getting hot food delivered through a variety of services like Amazon and Ubereats. I suspect the falloff in fresh produce shopping also reflects the fact that many younger workers travel a lot, and fresh food spoils if you over-buy and leave it in the refrigerator. And, many more young people are staying single longer, with no family for whom a meal might be generated and eaten together at the table.

My produce guy says he hopes the market doesn’t just become a tourist attraction, and I hope so too. But the forces pushing to make it so are strong.

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