Farewell, Market House
by Katie Dodd
On 7:30am on a cold, dark morning, you walk through downtown Annapolis toward the City Dock. The frigid wind blowing off the water stings your eyes. Squinting out across Ego Alley, where a few bare sailboats are tied, you see the early coloring of a beautiful morning sky. The windows of stores are dark — all but at Market House. Seeing people inside, you hurry toward this inviting place.
Other customers have beaten you to the bakery. Already two downtown crossing guards munch on ‘everything’ bagels, chatting with the man behind the counter. A group of several runners is leaving, most gripping white paper bags. The man working calls after them “run a few more miles for me!”
At the suggestion of the counter girl, you decide on a cranberry pumpkin muffin. As you bite into the treat, the pumpkin bread tastes warm and moist; the cranberries explode with sweet flavor in your mouth.
I am Katie Dodd, the girl behind the counter of the City Dock Bakery. I have worked there since November 2001, but that was not my first acquaintance with this little shop. I have lived downtown for 12 years, and I cannot remember a time that I have not gone to Market House.
When I was young, my father would take me to the oyster bar there. Both of us are seafood lovers, so he would order a dozen half-shell oysters; I would inhale them. As I grew older, I was allowed to go downtown without an adult. This was very exciting for a 10-year-old. My friend and I walked to City Dock every Saturday afternoon to order hamburgers at Mann’s Sandwiches and carrot cake muffins from the bakery. Often I would find an extra chocolate chip cookie with my muffin, slipped in the bag without my noticing.
My visits to the Market House grew more frequent as I got older. My neighbors and I all got to know John Bae (John the ‘Baeker’), the owner of the City Dock Bakery. I went to St. Mary’s High School, just two blocks from downtown, so many of my friends also knew John. So many people downtown know John, because he worked every day (except for major holidays), starting at 5am and staying until the early afternoon, sometimes for the entire day. He made all of the food himself (except for bagels and doughnuts), working fast so it could be ready before 7am, when the bakery opens.
One day during my junior year, a friend asked our history class if anyone needed a job. She worked at the City Dock Bakery, where John was looking for new employees. I jumped at the offer, and that weekend I found myself behind the counter. I’ve worked at the City Dock Bakery ever since that busy Sunday morning more than three years ago. When I went away to college last year, I stopped working regularly, but I always went back over breaks to fill in random shifts.
Last Saturday I arrived home to a horrible thought: The bakery is gone. I knew its last day had been December 15, but being home let the harsh reality hit. There will be no more Market House as I have known it. Today it is practically empty; most of the vendors have moved out before the lease ends December 31, leaving a terrible vacancy.
The Market House has been an irreplaceable part of downtown Annapolis. Many of the shop owners had been there for 20 years. Work at Market House has been their career, their livelihood. Some spent their childhoods there with parents who started the businesses.
The Market House itself was a family. Everyone knew everyone else and watched out for one another. On long afternoons, we kept each other company, sharing food, stories, troubles and seeking advice or condolence. My times there are some of my favorite memories. When I filled out an application for the bakery, I did not realize that I was also becoming part of such a close community. It is so rare today to find places such as the Market House where there are no fast food chains or built-up commercialization. So much for that thought.
On a last note, the sign in the window of the Market House shows a drawing of the building and lists the vendors inside. Underneath are the words “Crown Jewel of the City Dock.” What happened?
Katie Dodd is a sophomore at Boston College. This is her first story in Bay Weekly.