The East End Food Market was bustling when it opened for the season at its new location on Main Road and Cross River Drive. Pictured: Sang Lee Farms' booth. Photo: Peter Blasl

The East End Food Market opened its doors in Riverhead today and over a thousand people walked in — not all at once, of course, but for four hours there was a steady stream of customers in and out of the building at the market’s new location on Main Road and Cross River Drive.

Business was brisk from start to finish and the atmosphere was electric, with shoppers and vendors alike upbeat and excited to be back. The farmers market, operated by the East End Food Institute, was shut down by COVID in March 2020.

“It gives you a good feeling in your heart to be getting together with people again,” said East End Food Institute Executive Director Kate Fullam as she watched customers greet each other, mingle and shop. “I’m really pleased with how it came together.”

Fullam credited East End Food Institute’s Outreach and Education Coordinator Vivian Le with organizing the vendor spaces and doing “a great job filling in the gaps.” There is a waiting list of vendors interested being part of the market, Le said.

Many of the vendors at the market today have participated in the Riverhead winter market for years, some since the Riverhead BID first launched the winter market in February 2014.

“I love the new space,” said Cris Spindler, owner of Peconic River Herb Farm in Calverton. “The atmosphere, the color of the walls— and there’s heat, hot water and bathrooms,” she said, a reference to the market’s prior location in a vacant building on Main Street since acquired by the Town of Riverhead for demolition.

The East End Food Institute “really elevated the farmers market,” Spindler said.

Julie Lofstad, proprietor of Catch of the Hamptons Seafood in Hampton Bays, agreed. She said she especially loved all the natural light streaming in from the large windows across the entire front of the 5,000-square-foot building.

Melissa Dunstatter, owner of Sweet Melissa’s Dips, based in Rocky Point, is new to the Riverhead market but has been part of the Port Jefferson and Sayville farmers markets for years.

“This is a great space,” Dunstatter said. “It has a lot of potential to grow, too,” she said.

Dunstatter was one of 45 vendors who set up booths today to display and sell a wide variety of products. In Dunstatter’s case, that includes some unusual offerings, such as pickled quail eggs and habanero garlic cloves.

The vast majority of vendors sell products grown or made on the East End: fresh local produce, meats and seafood, eggs, specialty cheeses, local raw honey, jams, spices, pickles, soups, artisan breads, chocolates, freshly baked cakes, pastries and cookies, North Fork wines and distilled spirits, houseplants, handcrafted soaps and more — much more.

Vendors include some who work out of the East End Food Institute’s kitchen in Southampton or the Stony Brook incubator in Calverton. Some vendors, like Jamesport Sourdough, got their start in one of the incubators and have since moved into their own commercial production spaces.

“The market is a way for us to help a lot of people — growers, producers and customers alike,” Fullam said. She noted that many vendors at the market accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits and more vendors are in the process of registering for the program. The market also offers the Double Up Food Bucks, a program new for Suffolk County that’s designed to help SNAP-enrolled customers stretch their dollars to purchase fresh, locally grown food.

The East End Food Market, located at 139 Main Road, Riverhead, will be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through April 30.

RiverheadLOCAL photos by Peter Blasl and Denise Civiletti

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