Alchemist Public Market planned for Sacramento’s River District

Alchemist Public Market is scheduled to open to the public by early 2026. (Rendering courtesy of Alchemist CDC)

By Keyshawn Davis

In the emerging residential and commercial River District in Sacramento, Alchemist Community Development Corporation is planning a public market for the community to gather and enjoy food.

The Alchemist Public Market, will serve as an incubator for food entrepreneurs and is slated to open to the public by early 2026. The market will include a large commissary kitchen, an outdoor food court, farmers markets, cafe, coworking office and more. The forthcoming market will be located at 341 North 10th Street. The project will cost an estimated $12.5 million.

Founded in 2004, the nonprofit Alchemist CDC’s mission is to connect communities in the greater Sacramento region to land, food and opportunity, creating a vision in which neighborhoods are healthy, equitable, vibrant and diverse.

The Alchemist Public Market represents all of its programs coming together into one place, but with a focus on the organization’s food entrepreneurship program, said Alchemist Executive Director Sam Greenlee.

Alchemist has three main program areas; CalFresh, which the market has participated in the longest, allows people to use EBT benefits at certified farmers markets, including Alchemist, which operates a CalFresh booth at 9 markets across the county. Layered on that is the Market Match incentive program where recipients get an additional $15 with their EBT to spend on fruits and vegetables in the farmers market. 

Additionally, the Neighborhood Empowerment program helps neighbors convert vacant lots into parks and community gardens. They also have a food entrepreneurship program called The Alchemist Kitchen, which works with underserved, under-resourced and low-income entrepreneurs who want to start a food business.

Greenlee said the core concept of the main building is a large commissary kitchen that will accommodate 40 small businesses, as monthly members, who could run their productions such as catering businesses and making packaged food products in Alchemist’s facility.

“We found that the food entrepreneurs in our program, a lot of them weren’t actually able to get up and running because there wasn’t affordable or sufficient space to rent the commercial kitchens, so that they can legally produce food for sale,” Greenlee said. “Which is why we had to start our own, so we could control costs and make it affordable for our participants.”

Sam Greenlee is the executive director of Alchemist Community Development Corporation, which is planning the Alchemist Public Market for the River District. (Photo by Keyshawn Davis)

Jacob Sacks, the program manager for the Alchemist Kitchen, said he’s excited for the market and he’s lucky to have worked with the entrepreneurs in the program for the last four years. He said they currently have 27 businesses in their incubator program, and in any given year they’re working with 60 to 70 different food businesses. 

“It’s going to be incredible,” Sacks said. “I believe it’s going to be a Sacramento landmark. Businesses will be able to benefit from being associated with this kind of landmark.” 

Sacks hopes the market will open up doors for business in the future knowing that they got their start with Alchemist. He said that having this central campus location, that’s going to be very visible, is going to help promote the program, and promote the opportunities that they have available.

“As a resident of the Sacramento area, I think this is something we need,” Sacks said. “We’re just begging to have a food hall, food court that has all of these really interesting, diverse businesses that are making amazing food. And I just love places like that…” 

The market will also include a social enterprise cafe and retail shop that will have a small grocery section that qualifies for EBT and has packaged food products from the Alchemist Kitchen incubators, according to Greenlee. 

“We’re bringing in a nonprofit partner to do workforce development with our social enterprise cafe. It’ll be a cafe that is working with people with high barriers to entry for employment, training them as baristas and then placing them in more permanent roles to help them get started,” Greenlee said.

Another building onsite will act as a co-working space that will provide the community with rentable office space. The outdoor component is a big part of the project too, complete with a food court that will have a shaded area and be surrounded by eight food pods, which are permanent buildings to house eight small, individual kitchens with vending windows.

“These will be spaces where the people in our program who want to make a brick-and-mortar restaurant, or want to do a food truck, where they can actually start out,” Greenlee said. “They’ll get to incubate for about three years in one of those before they have to rotate out and find a more permanent place and open up the space for another new incubator business.”

Greenlee said they do that to give food entrepreneurs a chance to get up and running, learning a lot of the business before having to take on everything with property management. Alchemist will also host a weekly certified farmers market at the site to bring in local produce. 

“We wanted to be very welcoming, accessible for all folks so it may be more attractive for families with young children to come,” Greenlee said, adding that there will also be a small playground area on the property “And that playground — we’re trying to layer as many benefits into one project as possible.”

Devin Strecker, executive director of the River District, a property and business improvement district, said the Alchemist Public Market is going to benefit the neighborhood and be a place for community engagement.

“It’s a great place to bring the whole family and everyone can pick the food that they want, and there’ll be plenty of stuff to do for the kids,” Strecker said. “We’re really happy about that because there’s really nowhere like that in the River District right now.”

The market is located north of the Railyards and south of the American River, a block away from Mirasol Village, a new housing development where Alchemist manages its community garden.

“I think we have a unique advantage in that we traditionally were not a residential neighborhood. We were an early industrial, commercial warehouse district,” Strecker said. “As we’re building things up, we really have the opportunity to think about it and build it in a way that’s more equitable, really inclusive, sustainable.”

Grenlee said they chose the location because of general affordability and to fill the gap, as the River District doesn’t have places to eat or spots for the community to gather. 

Strecker said being close to the rail yard and close to downtown, a lot of the infrastructure is already built. 

“I know there’s a lot of concern about climate change and urban sprawl, so we really see ourselves as a positive answer to some of those issues that are pressing right now,” Strecker said. “I just encourage people to take a look at the River District and consider calling it home, especially with the public market coming soon and all these other projects. It’s going to be a really fun place to live.”

Greenlee said Alchemist recognizes the need for a public market as a way for entrepreneurs to access the resources, space and equipment to reach customers. 

Greenlee said he thinks the River District is clearly on a track to transform in the next five to 10 years with more residents and a lot more office workers and businesses. 

“As an emerging community, it needs a place where neighbors from diverse backgrounds and diverse economic situations can kind of encounter one another, be around one another in a public place and start to meet and form that community identity into a new neighborhood region,” he said. “A new neighbor from scratch.”

This story is part of the Solving Sacramento journalism collaborative. Solving Sacramento is supported by funding from the James Irvine Foundation and James B. McClatchy Foundation. Our partners include California Groundbreakers, Capital Public Radio, Outword, Russian America Media, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Observer and Univision 19.

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