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The place where everything comes together – the city’s stomach, so to speak – is none other than Thessaloniki’s marketplaces, Kapani and Modiano. They are perhaps the western most bazaars of the East. The Modiano Market in particulary, which for years served as the central marketplace to Greece’s second city, has much to tell us… A Jew from Thessaloniki named Giako Modiano began construction on this historic building in 1922. Following the new urban plan drawn up by French architect/archaeologist Ernest Hébrard, designed after the destruction of the city in 1917 by a major fire, Modiano purchased a large number of lots between Aristotelous, Ermou, Komninon, and Vasileos Irakleiou Streets, which were located in the “burned zone.” Afterwards, he entrusted his son Eli with building the market. Eli Modiano had studied at Paris’ École Centrale, and had already started to impress with his buildings from as early as 1906. His most important work was his father’s mansion, known as the “Old Government House,” which has been home to the Folk Art and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia and Thrace since 1972. In planning the market, he chose to copy the design of Parisian marketplaces, constructing a simple and functional building, which continues to operate 90 years after it was built.

 

Before the War
The Modiano Market first opened its doors to the public on March 23, 1925, and was a true innovation for its time.
It featured five “stoes” or colonnades with small stores arranged by category, so the everyday citizen of Thessaloniki could buy better quality products for a cheaper price.
The glass skylights on the roof provided the setting with natural light and the good plumbing kept the area continuously clean. These two conditions were absolute necessities for a food market, and multiple exits helped prevent crowding. The lofts provided for good air circulation, and of course, featured a nice view. All in all, the entire structure brought a taste of Europe to the rapidly developing city! There were separate areas where fresh vegetables, cold cuts and cheeses, meats, and seafood were sold.
The restaurants and coffee houses located nearby bought products from the market and served plentiful portions to the working people. Unfortunately, a few years later, Greece found itself involved in World War II, and Thessaloniki lost a great deal of its colorful diversity. The war affected the city’s Jewish population in particular, which dwindled from a large and vibrant community to just a handful of individuals.

Modiano-Market

Modiano-Market

The Perfect Spot for an Ouzo
From the approximately 150 stores that once operated inside the market, there are 50 that are still in business today. Many of these stores are larger than they once were, having subsequently taken over their old neighbors’ commercial space. As the years go by, however, the types of businesses in operation change as well. With the economic robustness and social image of the area where the Modiano Market is located very much on the rise, many ouzeries and mezze grills have come to the historic building, and have already built up quite a reputation among Thessaloniki’s leisure and entertainment venues. Especially on the weekends, when the food stalls close, live musical performances featuring Greek laika and rembetika (pop and blues) songs begin from early on in the afternoon, and groups of friends take their seats at the tables in the colonnades.

A Chance to Prove the Rumors Wrong
Today, 43 percent of the Modiano Market is owned by the city’s Municipal Real Estate Company, and has been declared a landmark. The last renovation project started in 1999, but the undertaking has generally been abandoned.
The question remains if the building will be completely torn down, as is rumored, thus erasing a piece of the city’s history, or if it will be completely renovated, so that it can freely take on its newest functions. It would certainly behoove the city not to lose yet another one of its historic buildings.

Categories: Food and Drink

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