The Grand Rapids Downtown Market has been busy over the past several months, securing vendors and completing construction on the $30 million culinary cathedral. Set to open its outdoor seasonal market May 4 and its indoor market in July, the 138,000-square-foot year-round market recently announced the first two of the 24 vendors that will occupy the indoor food hall.

Typical of the artisanal businesses recruited to the market are Simpatico Coffee and Love's Ice Cream. Simpatico has been roasting fair-trade beans from the Oaxaca region of Mexico for 18 months, which it sells to local coffee shops, restaurants and specialty stores from its Holland production facility. Owner Alex Fink is excited to offer a second retail location in downtown Grand Rapids.

"We want to make coffee a fun experience, show people where the beans come from, how coffee is roasted and just how fresh coffee can be," Fink said.

Chris McKeller looks forward to opening Love's Ice Cream in the market. The local entrepreneur and founder of Grand Rapids Cooking School will serve hand-crafted ice cream made from local organic grass-grazed dairy as well as gourmet non-dairy frozen desserts.

"I am a bit obsessed with ingredients and the market will allow me to share my whole food perspective around organic, local and quality with others like me," McKeller said.

Spread over 3.4 acres, the mammoth facility provides space for small, independent food businesses that focus on Michigan-grown-and-produced foods. Such vendors includeAperitivo, a wine and cheese-tasting shop, which is owned by Art of the Table's Amy Ruis and managed by the business' "cheesemonger," Kate Leeder, as well as Field & Fire, an artisan bakery owned by Shelby Kibler, formerly of Zingerman's baking school in Ann Arbor.

There will also be fresh produce, meats, seafood, dairy, baked goods, flowers, wines and locally brewed beer sold by the two dozen indoor vendors, as well as from the covered 58-stall outdoor farmers market.

The investors envision the market to be a destination for local food innovation, education and experimentation. In addition to food sales, there will also be two restaurants, a kitchen incubator/certified commercial kitchen, kids kitchen, wholesale produce distribution center and office space.

Look up and you will see a 6,000-square-foot rooftop greenhouse. The greenhouse is the building's signature design element, as it supports educational programming that show school children how real food is grown and cooked. There are alsoworkshops and gardening classes held there. The country's first LEED-rated public market also promotes sustainability through innovative uses of energy, lighting, water and advanced composting and recycling programs.

Planners expect the facility to lead to the creation of 1,270 jobs, offer start-up opportunities for budding entrepreneurs and potentially provide $775 million in economic impact over a 10-year period. Sounds tasty indeed.

Downtown Market Grand Rapids
435 Ionia SW, 616) 805-5308,
Outdoor Market opening day: Saturday, May 4. 

Hours: Tuesday: 8 a.m.–1 p.m., Thursday: 4–7 p.m., Saturday: 8: a.m.–1 p.m.