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City Market lands another fresh-food vendor

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The Indianapolis City Market has landed another fresh food vendor. Locally-based pretzel-maker A Taste of Philly has agreed to lease 200 square feet of space inside the downtown market.

The historic market is on the cusp of initiating a $4 million upgrade, with the bulk of the money generated by a downtown tax increment financing district. The project is slated to go out for bidding in late July or early August. Last month, bakery Circle City Sweets debuted inside the City Market. A Taste of Philly is the second small business to buy into Mayor Greg Ballard’s market overhaul plan.

Over the next year, City Market’s main hall will see vendor stands consolidated into smaller footprints with new facades, improved lighting and colorful hanging pennants. The revamp also will include a regular schedule of musicians and performing artists to attract visitors, with a new focus on fresh food.

A Taste of Philly, which will open its City Market outlet on Wednesday, fits the new mission. Founded last August by brothers Patrick and Chris Wojtalik, the small business has already established a substantial clientele at 670 E. 42nd St. Patrick Wojtalik, 35, said he and his brother grew up outside Philadelphia, and “Philly-style” soft pretzels were a childhood staple. But when the pair relocated to Indianapolis, they couldn’t find them here and begged their parents to bring some on every visit.

“We just saw room in the market for this product,” he said. “We saw people on the East Coast really enjoying them and thought there’s got to be people here who would enjoy them the same way we did.”

To get A Taste of Philly off the ground, the brothers invested $100,000 for equipment and space just south of Broad Ripple. Thanks to a group of part-timers, the small company now has the equivalent of three full-time employees. Patrick Wojtalik gets up every morning around 4 a.m. to begin “twisting” the pretzel dough, which is then refrigerated as it rises; it is baked throughout the day. The pretzels, which are offered in signature linked groups of three, sell for $2.75.

Although it’s only been in business 10 months, A Taste of Philly already has built up a substantial wholesale clientele. Customers include little league teams and concession stands, swim clubs and several restaurants, such as Upland Brewing Co. and the Flatwater Grill.

Farmers' markets have also offered the Wojtalik brothers a place to showcase their wares. For months, Patrick Wojtalik said, he’s been selling pretzels at the City Market’s Wednesday farmers markets. In the winter, he said he sold 150 on an average day. But in recent months, those sales have risen to 600 or 700. Those figures bolstered his confidence about expanding permanently in the City Market, even though other small vendors have struggled there.

“I come from Philadelphia, and that’s where I got pretzels, in the middle of the city. I wanted to touch that market,” he said. “We like that audience, the office workers. We wanted to get a foot in the door somewhere.”

City Market Executive Director Jim Reilly, also a Philadelphia native, said he made it a point to check out A Taste Of Philly as soon as he heard about its debut last summer. He said the business fits well into the market’s new vision of mixing lots of small vendors together to generate a wide variety of new fresh food options for patrons in addition to the traditional stands.

Leased space inside the market now goes for $15 to $22 per square foot, Reilly said, with the lower end going to fresh food vendors and more expensive rates for prepared lunch cuisine. Reilly said he’s in talks now with vendors who would like to sell fresh cheese, meat and soup.

“We’re now getting calls every week and are able to pick and choose vendors, and the type of vendors,” Reilly said. “We’re at the point where we’re getting the best of the best and can pick among produced vendors. We’re not going to settle for second-best anymore.”

Reilly hopes to transform the City Market’s mezzanine into a bar, and is in talks to bring in craft beers made by members of the Brewers of Indiana Guild.

“We’re real excited about the Taste of Philly,” Reilly said. “Especially as the beer concept takes shape, I can see at least 15 or 20 pounds [of new weight] a year on me [alone], between the pretzels and the beer.”

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  • Dear....
    Soapy/Bernard/Frank, you have waaaaaay too much time on your hands. You need to find a new hobby. Maybe you should take up bashing Indycar, you seem to have the personality for it.
  • Pretzels!
    Congrats to the Wojtalik brothers on their second location! As a native Philadelphian, I can attest that the pretzels are first rate authentic. I too always got my pretzles in downtown Philly and love that they are brining that feeling to Indy. Good luck guys!
  • Good to hear
    Glad the City Market is starting to attract higher quality vendors. I still would like to see them eradicate styrofoam containers, though.

    Also, it's so cool when one person logs in under 3 different names to make it look like there is more support for their position. Funny stuff there, Frank/Bernard/Soapy
  • Get your Wallets out
    Soapy Smith (born Jefferson Randolph Smith) was an American con artist and gangster who had a major hand in the organized criminal operations of Denver, Colorado, Creede, Colorado, and Skagway, Alaska from 1879 to 1898. He is perhaps the most famous â??sure-thingâ?? bunko man of the old west. Some time in the late 1870s or early 1880s, Smith began duping entire crowds with a ploy the Denver newspapers dubbed The Prize Package Soap Sell Swindle.

    Jefferson would open his â??tripe and keisterâ?? (display case on a tripod) on a busy street corner. Piling ordinary soap cakes onto the keister top, he would describe their wonders. As he spoke to the growing crowd of curious onlookers, he would pull out his wallet and begin wrapping paper money ranging from one dollar up to one hundred dollars, around a select few of the bars. He then finished each bar by wrapping plain paper around it to hide the money. He mixed the money-wrapped packages in with wrapped bars containing no money. He then sold the soap to the crowd for a dollar a cake.

    A shill planted in the crowd would buy a bar, tear it open it, and loudly proclaim that he had won some money, waving it around for all to see. This performance had the desired effect of enticing the sale of the packages. More often than not, victims bought several bars before the sale was completed. Midway through the sale, Smith would announce that the hundred-dollar bill still remained in the pile, unpurchased. He then would auction off the remaining soap bars to the highest bidders.

    Through the masterful art of manipulation and sleight-of-hand, the cakes of soap wrapped with money were hidden and replaced with packages holding no cash. It was assured that the only money won went to members of what became known as the Soap Gang. Soapy was eventually shot to death by a group he swindled in a card game.

  • Let er Rip I mean Let er RIP the Public off
    Can Mr. Reilly buy the Market with a group of private investors and do with it what he would like? Stop wasting tax dollars on this DUMP! It is a black hole. What the hell is the vision fo rthe gravel lot... Who wants to go to the market across from the DUMPY, CRAPPY 1960 City County Building with the Orange Jumpsuit Posse...

    You guys remind of the sleezy used car salesman, who give the car a fresh coat of paint but it is a pile of crap. Scammers on the public payroll.

    Ponzi Schemers' on the 25th Floor.
  • Taxpayers keep taking Mr. Mayor's Human Booster Shot
    Yeah Yeah Yeah...Sounds like a good Algebra problem for my 7th grader. Uh how many pretzels does this heavy duty square foot user of some 200 sq ft need to sell to break even and even be able to pay their rent. That space is not worth $15-$22 a square foot. If Mr. Executive Director are basing their financial decisions on that rent then he needs to get off the crack pipe.

    Perhaps he is no more qualified than to serve pretzels to the public.

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