Nearby, young children weave in and out between the legs of market-goers this Saturday morning, some on a mission or cupcakes, others simply enjoying the freedom to dart back and forth between market stalls, while parents drink coffee and chit chat.
The Mill Market, which opened in June 2014, has quickly become the place to be, and the place to linger, in the Sault. With the scent of frying, freshly made perogies or the intoxicating aroma of poutine from the gourmet food truck, along with the visual delight of a variety of baked goods and fresh fruit and vegetables, it's easy to understand why.
Temporarily housed in the former municipal fish hatchery building in the city's historically significant Canal District, the market offers a great alternative to the big box grocery store and shopping mall experience. Here, you can buy local, seasonal items, direct from the farmer, rancher, fisherman or artisan. You can, in one visit and under one roof, buy vegetables from a traditional Mennonite farmer, cabbage rolls from a Croatian cook, and ice cream from an entrepreneurial trio of under 13-year-olds.
Incredible edibles not your thing? No fear, the Mill Market showcases all things grown and handcrafted in the Algoma region. You can cozy up to meticulously made quilts, and marvel at toys sewn from recycled fabric. There are also local jewellers, visual artists, and the occasional tarot card reader. The market has something for every visitor. Even stick insects and giant African land snails. Not to be missed, tucked into the annex of the Mill Market building, is Entomica, a unique insectarium pilot project, offering public tours and interactive access to a variety of exotic and local insects. Entomica touts itself as a place where you'll discover the fascinating, hidden, and often misunderstood world of insects through live, interactive exhibits.
It truly is a fascinating array of local product and family fun in one building, accessible by car, bus and bicycle. And it's never the same. The year-round farmer's market opens its doors at 35 Canal Drive Wednesday evenings and Saturdays during the day. On Sundays, from 11am - 3pm, the Mill Flea takes over, incorporating some of the usual market vendors, but welcoming an even more diverse array of products. Shoppers can peruse second-hand books and knickknacks, while others can flip through a large selection of vinyl records or hunt for the perfect vintage outfit.
The market has become more than just a place to shop. In the short time it has been open, it has become a community gathering place. This is fitting, is its geographic location is steeped in history as a traditional meeting spot for aboriginal peoples. Nearby Whitefish Island, an aboriginal fishing ground for thousands of years remains undeveloped with intact pre-contact archaeological remains.
Now, The Mill Market serves as a place where Saultites can congregate and socialize, as well as a location for musicians, buskers and larger arts events, like Sault Ste. Marie's 2014 Culture Days celebrations, and for the city's annual Bon Soo winter festival. Located on the banks of the St. Mary's River, next to the historic Soo locks, accessible by the city's Hub Trail system, the market's success is just a taste of things to come for the area.
Story by: Miriam Dewar | Photos: Mill Market