It’s Saturday morning at the sprawling Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market.

The crowds are bustling and the vendors are hustling. The regulars are making their way to their favorite spots to ogle the day’s offerings and make their selections. Some sales are swift, while others come with a handshake, a pat on the back and a conversation that seems more like a dialogue between friends than a transaction between seller and customer. If you’re a first-time visitor to this vibrant community within a community, you may be wondering where to begin, but never fear: Here’s everything you need to know about mastering the market.

Our tour guide was the unofficial mayor of the place: Bill Steele, owner of Mr. Bill’s Poultry Market, who started working at the market when he was a teenager in the late 1960s. It’s no exaggeration to say he knows the first name of every vendor in the place, and a lot of the customers, too.

Best Time to Shop:

Steele says Thursday night is prime shopping time: “Everything is as fresh as can be.” Vendors are typically at peak inventory, while crowds tend to be on the thinner side. If you’re looking for a deal or two, make sure you’re at the market at 4 p.m. every Saturday—that’s two hours before closing time, and the time when many vendors are willing to cut their prices to move whatever inventory they have left. “We do a lot of business in those last two hours,” says Steele.

It Pays to Be a Frequent Shopper

“Every stand has a secret,” Steele says. And only by getting to know the various vendors will a shopper unlock those secrets. Perhaps it’s a specialty item, or a product not included with the public display. Bottom line, taking the time to get to know the sellers is a smart move.

Sip While You Shop

Why wait for Happy Hour? Both Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery and Eight Oaks Craft Distillers offer free tastings so you can wet your whistle while you’re wandering around.

HOURS, PAYMENT + MORE

Thursday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The market is open 50 out of 52 weeks every year.
(It closes during the run of the Great Allentown Fair in late August/early September.)

The majority of vendors accept credit cards, but there are a few that are cash only.
There are two ATMs on the premises.

There are nine entrances around the perimeter. Parking is free and available in the lots that surround the building. And, unlike many other local farmers’ markets, it’s all indoors, so leave the umbrella at home! The market is handicap accessible. Shopping carts are available. Shoppers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags, just like at the grocery store.

1825 W. Chew St., Allentown

THE VENDORS

Many of the businesses that have set up shop at the farmers’ market are family owned, with the second, third or even fourth generations now calling the shots. It’s not unusual to see the young children or grandchildren of the current owner(s) behind the counter, learning the ropes. The market offers a dizzying array of merchandise, everything from fresh produce to seafood to meat and poultry to baked goods to candy and snacks

  • Pickle on a Stick

    Grab a pickle on a stick at New York Pickle, purveyor of pickles for every palate, as well as olives, barrel-cured sauerkraut and other deli favorites.

  • PA Dutch Favorites

    Stock up on Pennsylvania Dutch favorites like shoo-fly pie at Amish Village Bake Shop. Steele also recommends the cheesecake, which is made with an extra-thick layer of sour cream on top.

  • EUROPEAN DELI

    Bask in the European deli vibe at Gdynia Polish Market and pony up for some pierogies and kielbasa.

  • CAFFEINE FIX

    Get your caffeine fix at Heffelfinger’s Coffee Tea & Specialty Foods You’ll find flavors that your neighborhood Starbucks doesn’t have, like Orange Creamsicle, Jamaican Me Crazy and Toasted Macaroon.

  • CANDY

    Load up on classic penny candy by the bucketful at Mink’s Candies, and be sure to look up—shoppers young and old get a kick out of the train that runs along a ledge near the ceiling.

  • NEW EDITIONS

    From the Hearth, The Udder Bar, and Little Miss Korea are all new editions to the Allentown Farmers Market.

The Market's Mainstays

60+ YEARS

Johnny’s Fresh Meats
Mr. Bill’s Poultry Market (formerly Dan’s Poultry and Eggs)
Dan’s Bar-B-Qued Chicken

30+ YEARS

Wittman’s World Cheeses
Gannon’s Gourmet

It’s Not Just About Food

You can do more than just replenish your pantry and grab a bite to eat at the farmers’ market.

Clyde’s Barber Shop: A mainstay at the farmers’ market for decades. The sign outside puts it bluntly: You Need a Haircut. Are you going to argue with that? (They cut ladies’ hair, too!)

Dave’s Vacuum Cleaner Service: Another longtime tenant. Chances are, Dave and company can fix whatever’s hampering your Hoover or blocking your Bissell.

Lucy & Lolly’s All Natural Pit Stop: All-natural treats and other goodies for the pampered pooch in your life.

The Old Time Watch & Clock Shop: If your timepiece needs a tune-up, these folks can help you out. They’ve been on the job since the 1940s, even before the farmers’ market opened its doors.

You Don’t Have to Take It “To Go”

There’s no need to wait until you have a lengthy shopping list to plan a trip to the market. There’s a full slate of restaurants serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to ease your hunger pains on the spot.

QUICK BITE

Charlie K’s is a treat for both pizza lovers and the indecisive. It offers two options and two options only: cheese or pepperoni. And, at just $1.67 a slice, it’s a bargain, too. If your taste buds are pleased, snag a make-at-home kit to whip up a Charlie K’s pie whenever you’re jonesing for it.

QUICK BITE

Dan’s Bar-B-Qued Chicken had to relocate to the lower level of the market because the crowds that flocked to its original stand on the upper floor were so dense that they were disrupting the traffic flow of the place. Taste one of their chicken dinners with all the fixings and you’ll see why.

QUICK BITE

Little Miss Korea offers authentic Korean cuisine like Mandu dumplings and Japchae (sweet potato starch noodles stir-fried with vegetables and meat). Also, be sure to try the homemade kimchi.

It’s About Community

Steele says the main ingredient in the success of the farmers’ market is the people—the ones doing both the buying and selling. For entrepreneurs in the making, the market can be a place to learn the ins and outs of running a successful operation. “You can come in here, you can start a business,” Steele says. “You can work hard. You can get one customer at a time.” And shoppers, Steele says, can expect unparalleled customer service, coupled with a high caliber of goods you won’t find in typical grocery stores. “That’s why people come back. This becomes their place.”

FAST FACTS

  • OPENED IN 1953

    The lower level of the market was opened in 1953. The upper level was added in 1958.

  • The Theatre District

    The market is located on the grounds of the 46-acre Allentown Fairgrounds, adjacent to the city’s West End Theater District.

  • 60+ VENDORS

    There are 60+ vendors that sell their wares at the market

  • Dan & Laurie Wuchter

    Dan and Laurie Wuchter have run the market since the 1990s, but their roots there run much deeper. Dan began working there as a teenager in the 1950s.

  • OWNERS

    Dan and Laurie Wuchter own a few of the businesses in the market, such as Dan’s Bar-B-Qued Chicken.

  • MISSION

    to bring wholesome, fresh foods from the farm to the dinner table.