On one side, there’s a quarter chicken dinner with a freshly cooked side dish. A few steps away at the 360 Grill, there’s a stir-fry of local vegetables cooked on a steaming circular grill. At the deli, there are custom-made sandwiches on four types of local bread. The bakery serves up fresh waffles and crepes made to order.
It’s not the sort of fare ever seen by the usual lunchtime crowd at Brock. But the Market is not the usual dining experience.
Opened in early May, the Market features such fare as a salad bar, fresh sushi, gourmet burgers and sweet potato fries. A newly built seating area — with a ring of windows near the ceiling to let in natural light — seats more than 500 people.
Response from the Brock community has been overwhelmingly positive, said Tom Arkell, director of Community and Ancillary Services. Despite there being no classes and less foot traffic, the Market saw 1,000 people each day in its first four days when it opened in early May.
“There’s been some pent-up demand for this,” he said. “When people walk through the marche, there’s that ‘wow’ factor.”
Construction started on May 3, 2009 and took about a year. The concept was to make the Market a hub for fresh local food, as well as “a lower-key social space and extension of the Learning Commons,” Arkell said. The Market seating area is 12,000 square feet, while the marche is 5,000 square feet. The project cost about $9 million.
When a meal is ordered in the Market, Arkell said, “if it’s available locally, it’s procured locally.” That includes the coffee and the meat used in sandwiches and meals. If people are curious when they’re ordering, they can always ask.
“We would encourage anyone to chat with any of our chefs and ask about our local ingredients,” said Arkell, who calls the Market “a celebration of Niagara’s best.”
The early May opening turned out to be perfect timing for the university, Arkell said. If it opened during the regular school year, there would have been a huge crowd of customers and less room for errors and experimentation. This launch meant staff could address any problems in a more relaxed atmosphere, he said.
In the future, there will be a public art display in the space. The Market also provides a dining area for Centre for the Arts patrons.
And with a space so inviting, Arkell expects returning students will hang out at the Market without ordering food. That’s OK too, he said.
“We expect a big crowd to be landing here and not eating here,” he said. “But it’s a social space. That’s what it’s built for.”