The Reading Terminal Market opened for business on February 23, 1892. The street-level Market reverberated with the sound of trains rumbling overhead. The stalls were laid out in a grid pattern with twelve aisles running east-west and four wider avenues running north-south. Sawdust was spread on the floor to absorb spills and moisture rising from the vast cold storage facility in the basement. By 1913 the Market was booming, with 250 food dealers and 100 farmers occupying its stalls.
The Market became known for its free delivery service. Boys called "Market brats" carried small orders to in-town customers. People living near train stations served by the Reading or Pennsylvania Railroads called in orders and had their goods dropped off near their homes. Some merchants had their own fleet of trucks. A parcel post department shipped products around the country and to Canada and Mexico.
"The new market is much lighter than was anticipated, and as plenty of electric lamps have been provided, the market will be light on the darkest days."
"Cities build and plow under. Favorite haunts go dark. But the story of the Reading Terminal Market is that it is still with us, holding down the same acreage a century later. It had doubled down—a relic ripe with life, a memory still unburied, its story preciously rare and well worth telling...well."
Rick Nichols, July 2011
Rick Nichols is a fierce champion of the Reading Terminal Market. "It is the defiantly beating heart...of old, original Philadelphia," he wrote in one of countless editorial and columns in The Philadelphia Inquirer from the mid-1980sto the early 21st century. He fought to keep the market open, celebrated its revival and believed in its future—leading tours in its aisles, bringing nationally known chefs and culinary experts to meet its merchants, and continually delighting in its resilience and vitality.