DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Delray Beach Market held its grand opening celebration Saturday and Gov. Ron DeSantis made a surprise appearance.
The 150,000 square foot facility, Florida's largest food hall, is just a few blocks south of Atlantic Avenue's dining district. It showcases over 25 unique culinary vendors.
DeSantis and Palm Beach Mayor Dave Kerner took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"He was so cool. You know, it's really exciting to bring all this business to town, all these job opportunities and really just bringing life back," said Keith Sanz, director of bands at Atlantic Community High School.
DeSantis sampled some pizza and ice cream.
Great morning at the ribbon cutting of Florida’s largest Food Hall — the Delray Beach Market. @market_beach has dozens of vendors and over 150,000 square feet to explore and enjoy. #DelrayBeachMarket pic.twitter.com/7h3SUFY1CL— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 24, 2021
"He sure did. He ate some pizza. He ate some ice cream," said Craig O'Keefe, managing partner of Click Hospitality, one of the partners behind Delray Beach Market. "We shared a beer in there together, so it was a really wonderful time."
DeSantis met a few of the more than 200 employees who have been struggling.
"[The governor gave] them a sense of pride and understanding that he is going to keep them working was really great, and super big payoff for us to have him here," said O'Keefe.
Inside, businesses like Bona Bona Ice Cream and Surry Co. Smoke House left New York because of the coronavirus to start over in Delray Beach.
"Their restaurants were shut down. They've been depleted. This is an opportunity for them to reestablish their business," said O'Keefe. "So these were opportunities for people to get back to work and start providing for their family again."
The grand opening attracted a crowd of thousands.
"It is overwhelming and we need it to stay overwhelming. We need people to come all the time, not just on the first day," said Delray Beach resident Genie Deponte.
The grand opening celebration felt like a mini-festival with games.
A new free shuttle business goes from the beach to the market, saving people time on their lunch breaks.
Organizers said the balloon animals, superhero shows, doughnut decorating and train rides will all be back one more time Sunday.