The six hundred square meter building at the Kromstraat in Veldhoven-Dorp had been empty since 2008. It was too big for a small independent entrepreneur, but also not suitable for a large chain. Carla Verweerden and Rudy Snel found the perfect solution. Why not a market hall? Something like that world famous hall in Rotterdam, The World of Food in Amsterdam or closer to home, the Vershal at Strijp-S. But slightly different: in a village. And a bit smaller.

A foundation rents the property and business owners hire a place in the former clothing store. Verweerden and Snel help them start up. “We are a club and help each other. Inside the hall there are no competitors,” says Verweerden. Not every entrepreneur is able to start a little business: “We only want craftsmen here who love to make their product but don’t have their own network of suppliers. A meal from the supermarket is not tolerated.”

Snacks from Aleppo

There is the food corner Alep, short for Aleppo (yes, that city in Syria that is so often in the news). The Veldhoven family of Calayji lets you taste the Syrian cuisine, but also makes Italian dishes. Father Calayji worked as an architect and lost his job during the crisis. “Then I started working as a cook at an Italian restaurant. We saw the advertisement for the Market Hall and could start here.” Now he is an architect no more, but busy baking pizzas. And at Alep you can try the Alepsnack; a deep-fried, lightly spiced kind of meatball.

During the interview Calayji serves a piece of baklava-like cake with coffee. Delicious, and almost a meal in itself. Snel: “We now can teach him how to do it: Yes, make sure there is something to experience, that the customer can taste something without having asked for it.” Then some whispering follows, probably about the size of the cookie that comes with the coffee. Now about four by four centimeters, tomorrow one by one and without a nut on top of it? The generous culture from the Middle East seems to clash with Dutch economic thoughts.

On December 3, the Markthal opened at the Kromstraat. Now, in February 2017, five entrepreneurs have found their residence in it. You can taste the Surinamese, Indian, Pakistani, Indonesian and Syrian cuisine. One shop specialises in beer and wine you will not find in the supermarket. Most entrepreneurs come from the neighbourhood. Chef Jaweed of the Pakistani and Indian WahReWah is the exception; he travels every from and to The Hague. A Sushi bar, a tobacconist and an Italian restaurant are expected to come soon, and the hall can accommodate pop-up initiatives.

Is such a market hall actually not only for hip, young people in the big city? Will this become a success in a village like Veldhoven? “Well what’s a hip, young man anyway” Verweerden asks. “Everyone wants good food,” Snel adds. The two have noticed that the buzz already created a small group of returning regular customers and they hope that expats, people from Meerhoven and tourists will also find their way to the Market Hall.

Snel and Verweerden learned from the experiences of the Food Halls in big cities. Some things they want to do better. “In Rotterdam you even could not sit down to eat at the start,” Snel says. “And the hall at Strijp-S seems to be outside the usual traffic of the potential customer.” Therefore, in Veldhoven it has been made possible to sit down and enjoy your meal. And Veldhoven’s Kromstraat is a real shopping street “where you can still park for free. That’s not possible in Eindhoven.”

Market Hall Kromstraat (Facebook) is open Tuesday to Saturday and on shopping Sundays until the evening.

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