Time Market is defined by the discerning sensibilities of somebody who really loves good food. That person is Peter Wilke.
Wilke bought Time Market in 1995 as “a fluke.” The building had been there since 1919 and was originally called Pioneer Market — it became Time Market a few years later.
Today, the market features a grocery, shelves of local and imported goods, a restaurant, kitchen, wood-fire pizza oven, deli, a bar serving a variety of drinks as well as an outdoor patio.
“If you’re going to do anything, do it to the best possible level,” said Wilke.
In 1995, Wilke was out of school, had just bought a house in the neighborhood, and went to Time Market every morning for coffee. At the time, the market was a deli and sandwich place, owned by a retiree.
After about a month, the retiree asked Wilke if he wanted to “buy the dump.”
Wilke loved historic buildings, his house was only a block away, and he had been dreaming of starting an importing business; it seemed like a great opportunity.
As it turns out, importing runs in Wilke’s blood. His maternal grandfather was an importer from Southern Italy. He ran a specialty import market for which he had his own label for San Marzano tomatoes and was the first to import Bertolli olive oil.
His paternal grandfather Bill Wilke opened a specialty market and smokehouse in Pine Plains, New York. He was recognized in a James Beard book as having the best smoked meats in the country.
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree — Time Market’s shelves are lined with a variety of imported goods, including cans of Italian tomatoes.
Everything available at Time Market is intentionally chosen.
“The idea behind this place is to, through the selection, take some of the guesswork out of it,” Wilke explained. “We hope you can buy anything that’s in here, and it’s on the shelf for a reason.”
Time Market is set up like a European market, where people can grab something to eat or buy their daily groceries.
Time Market is an intersection of culture in Tucson and it sees all sorts of people come in and out of its doors. “You see craftsmen, judges, doctors, students, retired people… anybody can go into the market and have an experience and place and be a part of the community,” he said.
Time Market offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner with options that range from eggs and toast to wood-fired pizza, sandwiches and salads. Beer and wine are also served.
The ingredients used are available to purchase in the grocery section — they’re fresh and sourced locally as much as possible.
“We want to create things that are exciting enough and light enough that you can go three or four times a week and kind of get mildly addicted to that and have it as part of your life,” said Wilke. He and his wife, Bree, admit to eating at Time Market every day.
Time Market serves pizza daily and has lunch specials to look out for. The particular day we visited, the special was a steak sandwich.
The dry-aged steak was served with a Calabrian pepper tapenade and topped with melted cheese, sliced fennel, and a pile of arugula on a baguette.
The thin slices of tender fall-apart beef, bitter earthiness from the arugula, delicate anise flavor of the fennel, and heat from the peppers were all simple elements that contributed to an elevated lunch.
The sandwich was served on a baguette baked fresh that morning. The dough used for the baguette follows a long fermentation process, causing the crackling crust and springy crumb.
And while stopping by for lunch, get your hands on a few go-to items from the grocery section.
Fresh greens will spring into the store this season from Forever Young Farm in Amado, AZ and the San Xavier Co-op. You’ll find various chards, collard greens, green garlic, and salad greens as well as cilantro, kale, and broccoli.
Don’t pass up the Arizona-grown citrus either.
While you’re perusing, snag a loaf of Pain au Levain — a great expression of what Time Market does best. The loaf pairs perfectly with a bottle of olive oil.
Hot tip: When looking for olive oil, search for bottles that mark the time of harvest and choose a bottle that marks the harvest within the last two years.
“Some great olive oil and amazing bread… I’m not sure there’s anything better than that,” said Wilke.
Wilke is not the only one who loves good food. Time Market is a “collaborative effort.”
“Whether it’s great produce, sourcing things locally, pasture-raised meats, hot sauce, wines, beer, chocolate, olive oil… any of the things that we go really deep on and do really well have been things that I’ve just been really focused on and interested in my whole life,” he said. “I’ve been really lucky to find these fantastic people to help me out with the vision.”
“There are a lot of people here who have found their passion for what they’re doing while they’ve been here,” Wilke said. Everyone at the market operates under the singular idea, “If you’re going to do anything, do it to the best possible level.”
Time Market is constantly growing and evolving.
It started with the acquisition of Rincon Market. Rincon will provide space to grow various programs and passions. The cheese program is already gaining traction and is on track to be a world-class selection.
In addition, their bakery is expanding (to handle the demand for bread) and we can also look forward to the introduction of their viennoiserie program, headed by Katie Morris, this season.
Morris, leader of the bakery team’s artisanal bread program, studied viennoiserie on a recent trip to San Francisco. She’s been experimenting with organic flour and pastured butter — needed to make the laminated dough — to bring a variety of sweet and savory pastries to Time Market this spring.
Pastries to keep an eye out for:
Although Peter Wilke bought Time Market nearly a quarter century ago, his vision for the market hasn’t changed much.
He wanted “to create a space for the community that could offer really fantastic food and drink [and] great products.”
His original plan was to import products from Europe. “This has been the vision all along, it’s just taken a long time to really see it through and it’s been refined over the years,” said Wilke.
His vision will continue to grow but the quality of the ingredients and the intention behind it won’t change.
Time Market is located at 444 E. University Blvd. and open from 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily.
For more information, visit timemarket.xyz.