Started in 1940 as an attempt by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to establish a place for street pushcarts and vendors (and thereby get them off the streets), the Essex Street Market was defined early on by the Jewish and Italian immigrants of the Lower East Side. After being run cooperatively by the merchants for years, the market was taken over by a private developer in 1992. Then in 1995, the New York City Economic Development Corporation assumed control and began a $1.5 million
renovation and consolidation of the space. These days the market is reinvigorated and filled with small grocery stores, coffee shops, sellers of meat, fish, and gourmet cheeses, and even a barber and a botanica. Standouts include Saxelby Cheesemongers and local favorite Shopsins, an eccentric and strangely appealing restaurant that moved in here in 2007 after decades in the West Village.