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Farmers markets in York County struggle during coronavirus crisis

Ron Musselman
York Dispatch

Holy Week, which culminates with Easter on Sunday, is typically one of the most lucrative for York County's farmers markets.

But with York County under a stay-at-home order since March 27 in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, fewer vendors are selling fresh and vegetables, meats, baked goods and food items.

The farmers markets, like restaurants and bars, have been limited to takeout orders, along with some deliveries.

“Usually, Good Friday is our busiest day of the year, and we usually have to get traffic control and everything that goes with it,” said Joseph Gurreri, president of New Eastern Market in Springettsbury Township. “But we’re not expecting it to be half as full this year due to the pandemic that has hit us.

“Our business is probably down at least a third (from previous years). We only have about two-thirds the amount of vendors showing up every Friday, so we have gone from 60 to about 40.”

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Cindy Steele, the chief operating officer of Central Market in York City, said vendors there also have experienced a dramatic drop-off in sales since the coronavirus outbreak.

Central Market, located at 34 W. Philadelphia St., is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, according to its website.

“This is always one of our bigger weeks, but it’s hard to know if people will come out or not,” Steele said. “Some people are scared to go out, and so are some vendors.

“Our vendors have been hit very, very hard. It’s been pretty dramatic. It’s been very hard to watch. We average about six to 10 vendors during the week and up to 15 on Saturday. It’s been very small.”

Gurreri said there are numerous signs posted inside his building reminding people about social distancing and staying 6 feet apart. He said no one is allowed to eat inside. 

Brynn Long cleans a cooler at her family's Myers Salads at Central Market Thursday, April 9, 2020. A few vendors at the market remained open during the pandemic, most offering take-out food. Bill Kalina photo

He said workers handling food or money have been regularly using hand sanitizer and cleaning surfaces at the market, located at 201 Memory Lane.

New Eastern Market is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each Friday, depending on customer traffic, Gurreri said.

“The customers pretty much come in, get the menu and order their food,” he said. “If they need something made, we make it for them, they pay, we hand it to them and they go.

“They have to stay behind the black line and keep their social distance while they are waiting. We can’t have people standing around, We have to keep them moving.”

Steele said she applied for a loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which assists small businesses in keeping their workers on the payroll during the coronavirus crisis. 

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She said she has encouraged vendors, some of whom are wearing face masks and gloves, to do the same.

“I figure it can help us pay some bills until we see what happens,” Steele said. “We have every intention of hanging in there and trying to survive. We’re all doing our best. We’ll see what happens when we finally come out the other side.

“Each day is a new battle.”

Gurreri, whose organization has not applied for a federal small business loan, said some are not pleased that New Eastern Market has remained open during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Some people are not happy with us and have let us know about it,” he said. “I get what they’re saying, but we need to take care of the community and provide them with food during this tough time.”

— Ron Musselman can be reached at rmusselman@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @ronmusselman8.