For as long as the building on the corner of University Boulevard and Third Avenue has been there, it has served as a market in one iteration or another. Opened first in 1919 and formerly called the Pioneer Market, the business grew and changed with the neighborhood.
Now called Time Market, (the name it has held for over 90 years) it is the very definition of a neighborhood market, complete with a full slate of wine and beer, organic produce, freshly baked bread and viennoiserie, salads and sandwiches, and outstanding pizzas.
On offer is also an array of specialty items alongside grocery staples, including organic dairy, kombuchas, specialty beverages, spices, sauces, and a generous display of tinned seafood.
Yet everything sold at Time Market is anything but usual.
Owners Peter and Bree Wilke have created a wonderful spot where folks can find a world of foods and flavors curated with an artful, creative hand set in a lively vibe.
Many customers live within walking distance; most of them are regulars. Whatever the reason for their visit, Time Market is an integral part of their lives and of the community. But where to start when telling a newcomer about Time Market? Is it a grocery store? A bakery? A wine store? A restaurant?
The answer is a resounding yes to all of the above.
The Wilkes have owned the market since 1995.
At the time they purchased it, Time Market was known more for being the home of Gatsby’s Pizza, Tucson’s first artisanal pizzeria. The market was almost a second thought. The Wilke’s kept the original Gatsby’s neon sign as a tribute to the past. Hanging over the door to the beautiful patio, the sign adds a certain glow to the market. It’s a neat touch.
“We are steadily polishing the apple,” said Peter, “and made it into the vision we believed is a great neighborhood market.”
The polishing included the interior which was a little worse for wear. The Wilkes tore up the linoleum flooring, refinished the original wood floor, removed the drop ceiling to reveal the wooden vaulted structure, and fabricated two large skylights. Other touches modernized the space without losing any of the charm.
Peter had long held a desire to have a market of some kind and buying Time Market seemed like the perfect place. But he and Bree had a bigger vision of what the market could be.
The bread alone is worth the trip to Time Market.
Fermented for 20 hours, the simple dough (flour, water, and salt) develops complexity as it rises naturally. The hot hearth oven creates a crackly crust and an interior with a tender texture.
Three types of bread — pain au levain, baguette, and walnut are available daily. On Fridays, a seeded loaf is on the menu; on Saturdays, there’s cranberry-walnut bread.
The Viennoiserie, defined as a “bridge between boulangerie and pâtisserie,” tempts with a variety of buttery croissants, perfectly sweet morning buns, alongside traditional pastries, a moist olive oil cake, deeply chocolate brownies, and an assortment of cookies and other goodies.
“We are a fine wine store,” Peter noted, “I’ve been curating and building the wine collection here for 28 years.”
But “fine wine” doesn’t mean snobby. The wines here are presented in a most friendly and welcoming way. Peter’s experience and good taste make for a wonderful selection for highly knowledgeable wine lovers and newcomers alike, and the staff is happy to help with any questions.
“Everything that goes on the shelf goes on for a reason,” said Peter.
Those shelves are packed with wines that are not found elsewhere in town, and often nowhere else in the state. You may not recognize the labels, but you won’t be disappointed with any bottle you choose; they have been selected for their balance and benchmark expression of terroir and varietals.
Beer lovers aren’t forgotten about either and will find hundreds of craft beer options available in single cans or in six-packs.
The area where all the veggies, fruits, and grocery items are held may seem small but every inch is filled with gorgeous food, whether local or imported.
“Everything is organic and high-quality,” said Peter, referring to the produce. “Essentially what we display is what we use in the restaurant. That’s how we keep the prices reasonable. We want to move things through quickly.”
Big, bright red and green peppers sit next to a mass of dark green avocados. Different shapes and sizes of winter squash in every hue of yellow and orange are piled along a bottom row. There’s a whole bin of huge garlic bulbs. Bananas hang from hooks. Greens come in big bunches or in salad bags.
Local, pastured eggs, grass-fed butter, milk and yogurt, kimchee and housemade kraut, nuts and dates, and mushrooms — both dried and an array of fresh, are ready to be taken home. The cheese options are plentiful and, like everything else found at Time Market, are of the highest quality.
“There are several categories we go pretty deep in,” said Peter, “One of them is chocolate.”
And he’s not exaggerating. There must be a hundred different chocolate bars displayed at the end of the check counter. All are ethically sourced, most are from small award-winning crafters and come from around the world.
The back of the store is equally impressive.
Whether you’re cooking Italian or Indian, Middle Eastern or Middle Western, you will no doubt find something to use. Even non-cooks might get inspired. Olive oils are another “deep” category — choices are plentiful yet rigorously vetted for quality. Other oils are also on hand as are a host of sauces, spices, and seasonings.
Hot sauce lovers will be in heaven with all of the available choices. Shelves are stacked high with every kind of pasta in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Tinned seafood goes way beyond tuna and sardines and include Branzino, dorado, and mussels.
Coffees and teas sit on a window shelf next to the door. Local tortillas are on the other side. Seeds from Native Seed Search can be found on a spinning rack. Dry goods, like soaps, household staples, and personal care items, are tucked in a corner in the back.
“We have kitchenware for sale,” said Peter, “along with some home goods like linens, wine stemware, and some ceramic dining ware.” The Wilkes plan to continue expanding the Home and Tabletop offerings on their website.
You can even buy fresh flower bouquets, made in-house. In other words, they have everything you might need to throw a beautiful dinner party or enjoy a simple dinner at home.
The pizza is some of the best in town, thanks to that 620-degree deck oven, which renders a crispy crust with just the right amount of pull.
Choices stretch from simple cheese to the Boscaiola with house-made fennel sausage, fresh mozzarella, crimini mushrooms, red sauce, onion, and red pepper flakes, or the Cipolla Funghi topped with mushrooms and onions sautéed with rosemary, garlic, and white wine, and then topped with a red sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Two sizes are available: 12-inch and 16-inch.
If you’re looking for just a slice of pizza, they have cheese, cheese and pepperoni, or two daily rotating pies from the menu.
Watching the pizza cooks is a show in itself. Stretching and tossing the dough, artfully arranging the toppings, and then sliding the pies into the flaming oven make one hungry. The energy is palpable. The results are sublime.
Ian Sugarman is the chef.
“Ian has worked with us for years,” said Peter, “It’s nice to have somebody who speaks our vernacular for what we care about in terms of food and balance.” Adding that he and Bree still direct the vision and enjoy collaborating with Sugarman.
Every sandwich is made with housemade bread; pain au levain, housemade baguette, or brioche. At first glance, the menu seems ordinary, but then one notices that all the sandwiches have a little something extra that makes them stand out.
Other options include a portobello mushroom or a roasted chicken and tamal sandwich, which, does indeed have a housemade corn tamale inside.
Salads and plates are plentiful and include a beet and pistachio salad, a tamal plate, and a hummus plate (complete with flatbread made in-house.) Some, like the Greek and Kale salads, are available in large and small.
Many items can be prepared without meat for vegetarian guests.
Awesome pairing options abound like a glass of wine or beer, a cup of coffee, or choose from one of the many liquid refreshments that are stored in a big refrigerator lining the back wall.
Breakfast is also served and the menu is simple — avocado toast with whipped ricotta on walnut bread or a breakfast sandwich on brioche. Add a cup of one of the freshly brewed coffees and your day is off to a great start.
Inside, several tables sit in the middle of the store, two bars offer more seating, and multiple two-tops line the windows. This makes for great people – and street car – watching. Or sit on the nicely shaded patio for a breath of fresh air.
Time Market never seems to stop from the minute the doors open at 7 a.m.
“We have a fantastic staff,” said Peter. And that is obvious to even the casual observer.
The kitchen certainly is busy and employees on the market side work nonstop stocking the shelves, inventorying products, and helping customers (they offer help to your car if you need it.) What is obvious is the positive attitude from everyone on staff, which of course makes shopping here an even greater experience.
If you’ve never been to Time Market, I suggest you visit soon. Parking is a bit limited but the streetcar stops right in front.
I would venture to guess that once you do visit, you’ll return again and again because Time Market is a wonderful place to discover and explore food.
Time Market is located at 444 E. University Blvd. For more information, visit timemarket.xyz.
Rita Connelly is the author of “Lost Restaurants of Tucson,” “Historic Restaurants of Tucson,” and “Arizona Chimichangas,”all published by The History Press. Growing up in a large Italian family instilled in her an appreciation for the important role food plays...