Stan’s Market: Good, Fresh and Cheap

With its worn green-and-white awning, handcrafted wooden tables and open-air setup, Stan’s Market has the feel of a produce stand located alongside a beach-bound highway.

Stan’s Market, located at 1809 Penn Ave. in Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District, has been selling fresh fruits and vegetables since 1997. Steve Stanek, owner of Stan’s Market, has had his hands in the produce business since high school. Steve worked as a produce manager at Foodland before deciding to start his own business.

Stan’s employs eight people including Mike Stanek, who jokingly refers to himself as the “latchon brother” and has worked at Stan’s since the market opened.

Photo by OTB Staff

Photo by OTB Staff

What is the difference between Stan’s Market and competing food shops and stands in the Strip?

Tim Workman, a Stan’s Market employee for more than eight years, credits the store’s focus on inexpensive, quality produce for its success.

“[Stan’s Market] is the only full produce shop in the Strip, there is nobody quite like us,” Workman says.

Stan’s Market obtains its produce from a variety of distributors. Some of the products are bought

On a cool, autumn Saturday at Stan’s, customers can find a variety of seasonal produce to choose from.

wholesale from various vendors. Other fruits and veggies are shipped directly from vendors in California and New Jersey. Depending upon the season in Pittsburgh, Stan’s Market also sells produce provided by local farmers. The food is delivered by truck or picked up at the produce terminal area.

But as in any other business, there are pitfalls and changes. After nearly 100 years in the Strip, J.E. Corcoran Corporation, one of the largest wholesale fruit and vegetable vendors in Pittsburgh and one of Stan’s key suppliers, has decided to move out of the city.

Photo by OTB Staff

Photo by OTB Staff

The ability to buy produce at a significantly lower price than that of a grocery store is appealing to customers, like long-time customer Diana Hallen of Greenfield, for example. Diana, who has been buying her produce from Stan’s Market ever since it opened, considers their prices unbeatable. In order to offer low prices to customers, Stan’s finds suppliers that offer lower wholesale prices. Since suppliers are currently nearby, transportation costs are low. But thinking outside the box also allows Stan’s to economize.

“Say there are 100 oranges in a box. The USDA allows 5% decay,” Steve explains, meaning that a supplier can expect full price if five of the oranges are bruised or otherwise unsellable. “If there is 10% decay by the time we get them they have to sell it to us for an even lower price. Instead of paying $25 you only spend $10.” Tossing out ten oranges isn’t a bad deal when they get 90 for such a discounted price.

On a cool, autumn Saturday at Stan’s, customers can find a variety of seasonal produce to choose from. Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, squash and decorative gourds are in stock for the season’s festivities. A very diverse group of customers browses through potential jack-o’-lanterns.

At the rear of the store, near the cash register, there is a laminated map covered with thumbtacks that mark the hometowns of Stan’s customers.

“We get such a diverse crowd of people … we have over 100 countries represented,” Steve says.

Over 45 states in the U.S. are represented alone. Six of the seven continents, Antarctica being the exception, have at least one thumbtack to represent them. Kenya, Sri Lanka, Italy and Australia are just a small sample of the nations whose culinary emissaries have visited Stan’s.

Photo by OTB Staff

Photo by OTB Staff

Stan’s Market is open seven days a week, but nothing compares to a weekend morning in the Strip District.

The crowds are buzzing, the food is sizzling and Stan’s Market is packed like an uncarved pumpkin. When asked about a Saturday at Stan’s, employee Dave Dubris laughs and says “It’s ‘goin’ be real busy brother.”