Dryades Public Market has been a favorite space of mine for years. The news of its closing, reported by NOLA.com, was unexpected, and a bit saddening. I’ve spent many lunchtimes in the mezzanine space with my laptop in front of me and a deli sandwich on the side. Chef Allison was almost always there to greet me when the hot food bar opened for lunch and the first batch of mac-and-cheese made its presence known.
The managers were gracious, open and willing to try different ways to serve quality food options to its neighbors. I’ve hosted several events and planning meetings there. Its interior architecture — beams, brick, and the built-in schoolhouse vibe — make me appreciate the effort as much as the space.
With this bad news also comes room for imagination, I think. Here are some wild ideas for the former grocery store space. Mind you: I haven’t the funds to make any of these dreams come true, and I also understand that reality.
A bare-bones eatery and workspace
The Market space could retire its grocery parts and create more than enough breathing space for three main features. The hot bar I love so much would turn cafeteria-style and have servers make the plates. The current coffee bar serves whiskey when you need it. Protect at all costs. The small bakery could offer its normal sweets but lean into more coffeeshop fare — croissants, coffee cakes, any form of bread that’ll soak up the liquor.
The rest of the space would be used as community space for eating, working or simply using the WiFi. There could be monthly or weekly events like popup shops, artist meetups, and whatever else its community and neighbors want. The building still houses impressive community-focused organizations like StayLocal! and Youth Run NOLA. Why not add fuel to the movement?
Writer’s studio and store
Selfishly, I would like to see more spaces specifically curated for writers and authors. The Market’s mezzanine, where meetings and lunch breaks lived, would work well as a small bookstore and writer’s studio.
The walls would be lined with bookshelves that feature New Orleans authors, typical books on school reading lists, and whatever else the Central City community enjoys. The brick back wall would be an Audio Bar, with headphone stations for streaming audiobooks, podcasts, and music for a small hourly fee or free.
Unselfishly, I say this could still be used as a venue for meetings, presentations and other small community events. The intent, however, would be for the lover of literature: the readers and writers.
STEAMspace and creative hub
The artistic talent of New Orleans can never have too many homes. Our culture and energy are unmatched, and we will most likely need the tech industry to preserve the future our city has left. This new Information Age emphasizes STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). STEAM includes the arts as well. This focus will set the standard for how future generations learn, connect and make their money.
I’m not sure of the best way to marry tech and art, but the intention to do so is bound to birth innovation. The mezzanine space, although I love my writers, could be used as a graphic learning lab. Visitors would learn and practice photo and video editing, animation and graphic design. The ground floor could be a forum space for open discussion about STEAM initiatives and related community news — definitely over Irish coffees at the bar. Part of the old grocery space could house a podcast studio where visitors can see and hear the hosts record or broadcast live. The more I think about it, the more comes to mind.
Opportunity either way
With the future of Dryades Public Market unconfirmed as of now, my curator mind has no choice but to dig into ways the beauty of a space could stay unhidden. I really hope they find a place for Chef Allison’s famous food and the highly overlooked coffee and cocktail bar experience.
I would love to see the space gain new life, and for the surrounding residents to benefit from and appreciate it all the same. So far, all I have is a few elaborate ideas and a bit of a voice here. For now, I’ll keep my ears open and let my fantasies run wild as I shop at the Market one last time.
Tyree C. Worthy is the publisher of NOLA Messenger. He is a Loyola University New Orleans alumnus, Carrollton resident, creative writer and public speaker.