Sunday Spotlight: Daniel Pereira, owner, Union Hall Market

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Daniel Pereira, owner, The Market at Union Hall. Photo by Ben Allen, HudValley Photo.

Walking into the Market at Union Hall feels like stepping into the kitchen of your most loving relative, the one who will bake your favorite treat so that it’s fresh from the oven and cooling on the counter when you arrive. Daniel Pereira, owner of the Market, has spent the past four years since he opened the business working tirelessly to create a feeling of warmth and love for every customer who comes through his doors.

“To me, when you walk in, that first impression, you get that feeling, oh my God, this place is nice,” said Pereira. “I like to say that I differentiate myself that way. I know that I have it here because that’s me, that’s Daniel.”

A busy morning at the Market at Union Hall. Photo by Ben Allen, HudValley Photo.

Pereira first conceived of the Market after a 15-year career in the organic food industry. He envisioned creating a space where people could pick up their essentials—eggs, cheese, butter—plus Pereira’s own essentials, good coffee and good desserts. In 2017, the Market was born, occupying the ground floor of the historic Union Hall building in the heart of North Salem.

The first two years in business were about making ends meet, as Pereira worked to establish a name for himself. He paid attention to what people were buying, but he also paid attention to what they wanted and what they were asking for. It wasn’t long before Pereira started seeing a need to evolve the space. “I saw that people wanted to come in and sit down, and eat and talk,” Pereira said. He quickly reorganized, moving grocery shelves to the back of the store to allow for communal seating.

Over time, the Market began to come into its own. Pereira saw a shift, and said, “the community really embraced me. From there, I just kept growing and growing.” He added prepared foods, including soups, salads, sandwiches and heat-and-eat dinners. With his background in the organic industry, Pereira has been passionate about curating prepared foods that are all natural and non-GMO. He has also catered to various dietary preferences.

“Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, keto-friendly…all of that, I try to pay attention to,” he said.

The Market at Union Hall was just starting to take off when COVID hit. While many small owners faced tough losses as a result, Pereira was able to expand his business through the pandemic.

“I think he’s responded really well to COVID,” said Vin Farrell, a Market regular. “He was really quick to be proactive with customers’ needs. Like a lot of places in town, he really pivoted his business to accommodate for how people are purchasing food.” Farrell pointed to the various ways Pereira made it easy to shop the Market, including deliveries and the ability for customers to call-ahead for easy pickups. “That’s the sign of a strong business owner,” Farrell added. “He identified the market and the landscape and made moves.”

Pereira has also placed an emphasis on two of his personal passions: coffee and desserts.

“Being a coffee drinker from Brazil, I always found that a lot of coffee companies, in this area in particular, would be very acidic,” Pereira said. He heard about Tarrytown-based Coffee Labs Roasters and scheduled an appointment to meet with them and sample their brews. The beans are a staple in the Market, including Pereira’s personal favorite, the Witches Brew blend.

Coffee Labs coffee, sold at the Market. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo.

A self-confessed sweet tooth, Pereira has worked to curate an incredible assortment of treats and baked goods from local bakers and bakeries. He tapped a pastry chef friend to make all his cakes and cookies. He hand selects his favorites from the largely organic Ross Bread Shoppe in Ridgefield. The Market stocks many of Ross’ muffins, scones and croissants. Pereira often spends the early morning hours between 5 and 7 a.m. driving around to various locations to hand-source the pastries that feature prominently in the Market’s front counter.

“It’s a lot of work! But it works,” Pereira said.

While Pereira’s business acumen and commitment to pay close attention to customers’ needs and wants has undoubtedly propelled his business, his personal values may be an even bigger driver of the Market’s success.

Maria Serrano, who has worked at the Market for the past three years, said of Daniel, “he’s always thinking about what can make people comfortable when they come here. Throughout the pandemic he went above and beyond, shopping for people privately if they couldn’t come here. That’s something to admire.”

Serrano earned her nursing degree a year ago but has kept her job at the Market because of how closely connected she feels to the place, Pereira and the customers. “There’s not a day that I wake up and don’t want to go to work,” Serrano said. “I live with the sick as a nurse. Then I come here and make people a coffee and make their day better. I love it.”

Maria Serrano and Daniel Pereiro at the Market. Photo by Ben Allen, HudValley Photo.

Serrano and five others make up the staff that keep the Market running. Pereira hires only people who can commit to the same standard of customer service that he himself is committed to. He has found that those who understand his way of being are more likely to represent him, the face of the business, the best way they can.

“I tell my staff all the time, I want every single person to be greeted, to be looked at, and to be heard.” Pereira has instructed staff who are having a bad day to stay home; his feeling is that he doesn’t want bad energy in the Market or reflected back onto customers.

For Pereira, the customers are always top of mind. “The world has had this major shift, where we’re buying pretty much everything online, but we still like to go out and have this one-on-one experience. So I’m really paying attention to that,” he said. Pereira is also constantly thinking about what he can do to help draw people to the Market. Recently he added a tent to accommodate more customers who want to gather outside. A heater inside the tent keeps temperatures cozy, and a chiminea near the tent offers another outdoor space for people to linger.

As he has for the past four years, Pereira will continue to dream and invent. “I’m a person who always puts a positive vibe into the universe. To expand is definitely part of the dream. It could be here or it could be somewhere else, but it’s definitely part of the dream.”

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