By Steven Hoffman
As it rained steadily outside, people arrived at 148 West State Street in Kennett Square last Friday evening in groups of two, three, or four to experience the Market at Liberty Place, a 10,000-square-foot facility with seven different vendors under one remodeled roof. As local residents got their first look at Kennett Square's newest attraction, the superlatives—like the rain outside—poured down.
“Isn't this great?”
“There's nothing like this in Kennett Square.”
The Market at Liberty Place is a creation of LGB Properties. One comment that the company's vice president, Geoff Bosley, has heard regularly when people see the market for the first time is that it fits Kennett Square's style—it is simultaneously cool and classy.
“That’s really the highest compliment for us—when people say that it fits Kennett Square,” Bosley said. “It’s a warm, welcoming place where people want to be.”
That was clearly the case for the ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 12 as hundreds of people filled the spacious market for its official opening and the debut of the tenants: George & Son's Seafood Market, the State Street Pizza & Grill, Nourish Coffee Shop & Juice Bar, Rick's Steaks, Yo'R So Sweet, the Paradocx Vineyards Wine Bar, and the Kennett Square Arts Alliance.
Not every grand opening is grand, but this one lived up to the billing. Friends shared laughs as they sampled locally produced wines of Paradocx Vineyards. Others sipped One Village Coffee at Nourish. Hungry patrons enjoyed pizza and pasta at State Street Pizza & Grill or authentic Philadelphia-style cheesesteaks at Rick’s Steaks.
As Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello surveyed the offerings, he had a hard time selecting a vendor that might be his favorite. With everything from Italian food to seafood to wine to frozen yogurt to choose from, the market has a little bit of everything.
“It’s very impressive,” said Costello. “It’s a good community concept. Kennett Square is so vibrant.”
David Williams, a Kennett Square resident, stopped by George & Sons Seafood Market to check out the selection of fresh fish. After one visit, he's already a fan of the market.
“It’s terrific,” Williams said. “I like the openness in here. There’s a lot of variety and it doesn’t duplicate anything else in town.”
Kennett Square’s leaders applauded the opening of the market as well. Mayor Matt Fetick talked about the commitment that LGB Properties president Larry Bosley and Geoff Bosley showed to the town by extensively renovating a property into something special.
“When people invest in our town like they have,” Fetick said, “it makes it better for everyone.”
“We’re so excited to have this in Kennett Square,” said Ginger Meadows, the president of the board of directors of Historic Kennett Square.
Mary Hutchins, the executive director of Historic Kennett Square, recalled touring a similar market with the Bosleys early in 2012. That market was in Ardmore.
“It was great and we thought it would work really well in Kennett Square,” Hutchins said. “I knew that Larry and Geoff wanted to find a new purpose for this building and we thought it was a good fit.”
She added, “It is their dream, their hard work, and their funding that made this possible. It’s really fabulous. It’s something a little different and it's one more thing that sets Kennett Square apart.”
Geoff Bosley talked about what he and his father envisioned when they started making plans for the market.
“The vision that we had,” he said, “is to make it a gathering place for Kennett Square and the surrounding communities. It has a unique feel to it. It’s good to see everything coming together. It’s really exciting.”
The opening of the Market at Liberty Place completes the latest transformation of a building that has a long history in Kennett Square. It was built in the years following World War II. At the time, steel was scarce and ships that were used during the war were being taken apart and the materials were being re-purposed. Steel from liberty ships was used to construct the building at 148 West State Street, and it became the longtime home to Alvin’s Furniture Store. In the early 1980s, the building was turned into the corporate home of Genesis Health Ventures. After Kennett Square’s largest employer expanded to a new headquarters in town, the building was under-utilized until LGB Properties purchased it in 2010.
“The building needed a new purpose,” Bosley said, “and I think we gave the building a very modern feel.”
He said that identifying the right mix of vendors was a very important part of the process. They wanted vendors that are all unique, but also ones that fit together well.
Francine Covelli is the owner of Nourish, a coffee shop and juice bar that has one of the window spaces of the market. Corvelli said that Nourish will offer healthy local and organic products, including One Village Coffee.
“We’ve had a really wonderful response to the opening and that has been incredibly exciting,” she said. “I think it will be a hub, a go-to place in Kennett Square.”
Rick’s Steaks, which offers authentic Philly cheesesteaks, is situated across from Nourish, also in a front window position. This is Rick Olivieri’s first location outside Philadelphia. He is the grandson of Pat Olivieri, who is credited with popularizing authentic Philadelphia cheesesteaks. Olivieri previously had several locations, including one at the Reading Terminal Market.
The State Street Pizza and Grill, owned and managed by Kennett Square’s own Jim Miller, is a one-stop shop for pizza and classic Italian favorites. This is the latest venture for Miller, who also owns Orion's Pizzeria and Poolside Deli.
George & Son’s Seafood of Hockessin, Del., a supplier of fresh fish for 26 years, is owned by George Esterling.
Yo'R So Sweet will offer fresh crepes and other French favorites for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert, as well as smoothies, frozen yogurt, and specials throughout the week.
Southern Chester County's own Paradocx Vineyard will be offering its wine made from homegrown grapes paired with cheese, crackers, and chocolate.
For the grand-opening celebration, the owners of the Kennett Brewing Company, Christopher and Jennifer Braunstein and Mark and Jossy Osborne, decided to set up a booth in the market to continue the process of introducing their product to local residents.
“I am astounded,” said Mark Osborne of the market. “It’s fantastic how Kennett Square is growing in the last 10 to 15 years.”
The Kennett Brewing Company is expected to open at 109 South Broad Street later this year.
The Kennett Square Arts Alliance will use its space at the Market at Liberty Place to rotate artwork for sale by many local artists. There will be sculptures, paintings, drawings, metals, and much more. The Kennett Square Arts Alliance will also host interactive demonstrations and workshops for the community.
“We hand-picked the vendors,” Larry Bosley said. “Every vendor is unique for this building.”
He said that he’s most proud of the fact that this project helped bring something different to town and create new jobs in Kennett Square.
“We’re proud of the fact that we took a building which was sitting dark and when we’re done there will be 100 employees here,” he said. “This is the most challenging thing that we’ve done. I’m proud of the fact that we created a gathering place for Kennett Square.”
There is room for between 11 to 15 vendors total at the Market at Liberty Square. The market also has a climate-controlled outdoor patio that offers a view of State Street.
Larry Bosley said that they would like to add an organic produce shop, a flower vendor, and perhaps a cheese vendor to the mix of businesses in the future.
“I wouldn’t mind having some Middle Eastern food here, too,” Bosley said.