The History of The Market at Larimer Square
During the 1970’s many of the historically significant areas of downtown Denver were replaced with skyscrapers and high-rises. The skyline changed swiftly and drastically. The last bastion of Denver’s historic past was kept intact between 14th and 15th streets on Larimer Street. That block, renamed Larimer Square, became the symbol of historic preservation and the undisputed focal point of downtown Denver for the decades to follow. From the beginning The Market has not only been in the center of Denver’s most notable block, it has served as the quintessential meeting place for dignitaries, students, artists, businessmen, professionals and locals alike.
From 1978 through 1983 Dana Crawford, the person who was largely responsible for saving the Larimer block from destruction, owned The Market. During that period The Market was exactly that, a downtown grocery. Yet, with the introduction of nearby “super”-markets the small, quaint local grocery and gathering place proved no match. In 1983 Dana Crawford sold the business to two brothers from New Jersey with extensive restaurant experience and an unbridled zeal for cooking. The rest is history.
Since 1983 Mark and Gary Greenberg transformed that fledgling grocery into Denver’s most recognizable deli and espresso bar. The prolonged success of the business is directly attributed to the brothers’ emphasis on freshly prepared foods made and served on the premises as well as the preservation of the locally-owned downtown grocer and local meeting place atmosphere.
Yet The Market is not all about Denver. The Greenberg brothers infused into the business their New Jersey culture and Jewish heritage. The Market was the first espresso bar between New York and Los Angeles, eighteen years before it became trendy to open a coffee house on every corner and several years before the fashionable Starbucks chain. The Market for many years boasted the largest selection of cheeses and pates, as well as an extensive selection of crackers and specialty cooking items; long before the trendy natural/organic grocery chains.
Also, without question, one of the biggest keys to the Greenbergs’ success is their relationship with their employees. In an industry that is infamous for high employee turnover and low wages The Market has a record of employee loyalty that is unfathomable in today’s restaurant world. More than 50% of the Greenbergs’ employees have worked there for over eight years, some for over fifteen years. The remainder of the staff is comprised mostly of part-time help such as students and artists who need the flexible hours. The result is a staff of 35 that rewards its customers with fresh and interesting youth as well as a recognizable face and old friend.
In this time of fluctuating economies and dot-com company failures, it is, ironically, the Greenbergs commitment to the consistent and familiar that has been the foundation of their success. The Market, independently owned and operated in Larimer Square for over twenty eight years, has never once advertised in any publication. Its growth and popularity has relied solely on word of mouth and customer loyalty, a testament to the Greenbergs faith in their business objectives. It is not what you say that makes one successful it is what one does. Maybe most importantly it is what one is. It’s successful because the Greenbergs love what they do. Sometimes it is the smallest of strategies that propel the biggest of businesses.
To this day The Market prepares all of its food in-house including a vast array of hot foods, deli items, pastries, cakes, coffees and much more. Recently The Market has expanded its efforts into catering for downtown business gatherings, board meetings and luncheons as well as a large volume in specialty and wedding cakes.
The 1990’s were the years of revitalization in Downtown Denver. The 90’s reshaped Denver’s downtown with new sports stadiums, aquariums, amusement parks and arenas, but The Market still endures. In a new downtown of sports bars and multiple TVs, it is The Market at Larimer Square with its classical music … eclectic clientele … it’s European flavors and steadfast adherence to history … that still captures the heart of this city and it remains, without question, one of Denver’s most endearing icons.
Sadly in November of 2000, beloved Owner Gary Greenberg passed away, and now the store is run by Mark, his wife Andrea, and the rest of the staff. The new century has brought many changes to the store, including a liquor license, a handicapped accessible elevator, the making of wedding cakes, WiFi access for students and businessmen/women alike. As the block around them changed, bringing more restaurants than you can shake a stick at, the one thing that has endured and will continue to endure is the love that is put into the work that is done. In a world where things just keep moving faster by the second, it is nice to know there is a place where you can sit down, take a breath, and be still-even if it’s just for a little while.
In loving memory of owner/partner and brother Gary Greenberg, 1948 – 2000.