Eastern Market has been one of Detroit, Michigan’s most prominent tourist destinations for over 150 years. With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, the market has remained open, but with new safety measures implemented.
Sam Morykwas, marketing manager for Eastern Market, explained that Eastern Market wanted to ensure the safety of its guests and to make sure that they were complying with the state and city’s safety initiatives.
Eastern Market uses several safety measures to limit face-to-face interactions and to keep the vendors and guests safe. These measures include sanitizing services and handwashing stations for the staff and guests, a taped 6-by-6-foot grid for a visual guide to help maintain social distancing, no longer allowing sampling from vendors, contact-free payments, additional signs to encourage people to distance themselves, required masks upon entry, temporary fencing around the market and a north and south entry point into the shed to regulate the flow of traffic.
These new safety measures are crucial to keeping guests safe.
“The market is typically known as a large gather place in the summer time, an almost tourist attraction,” Morykwas said. “Eastern Market is typically a place that has a hundred front doors, so to speak.”
Yvette Jenkins, market vendor and owner of Love Travels Imports, was concerned about people not wearing their face masks and not adhering to social distancing guidelines. She set up an empty table in front of the one that she actively sells from to encourage the distance. Jenkins also provided masks, hand sanitizer and information about the products she is selling for customers to use.
“I have such beautiful products and people want to touch them,” Jenkins said. “They can’t seem to help themselves. So by adding that additional distance, it gives them a chance to think and not impulsively touch… It’s about making people feel comfortable and cared about.”
Andy Sheridan, market vendor and owner of Birdie’s Something Chocolate and Birdie’s Kits, had to change his entire business model from selling individual chocolates to chocolate kits.
“[The idea for the kits] came from the crisis, actually,” Sheridan said. “I wanted to do kits on a larger-scale for getting into wholesale. In order to stay in business, we fashioned it [into a pre-packaged kit].”
Both Jenkins and Sheridan are selling at Sunday markets.
In addition to the new safety guidelines, Eastern Market has shifted their business model in a few different ways.
“At our core function, we’re really providing food to those who need it, and we’re almost like a grocery store in that way,” Morykwas said. “A lot of our efforts are currently trying to get food back to those who need it, so a lot of what we’ve been doing during the pandemic is trying to give back.”
Over the past couple of months, Eastern Market has delivered over two thousand food boxes a week to senior homes, other nonprofit organizations and to those in need of food and produce. They have been trying to give as much food as possible to those who are at high-risk for contracting the virus.
The Tuesday market model shifted from mid-March through the beginning of June to support district businesses. They set up a drive-thru market that allowed 10 to 12 businesses to do curbside pickup.
One of the market’s most successful days of the year, Flower Day, which normally takes place during Mother’s Day weekend, was cancelled this year as people know it. Instead, Eastern Market supported its flower growers by launching an “Online Flower Season” where they sold flowers online from Sunday to Tuesday and then had people pick them up in person on the Thursday of that week. They also hosted Facebook Live videos that featured the growers and their tips on garden care.
“I think it turned out very well,” Morykwas said. “It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t have quite the party that Flower Day normally is, but we still got the majority of the flower sales which is the core element of that day.”
Eastern Market’s Tuesday and Sunday markets are open for the summer through September. The Sunday market offers food, clothing, art, beauty supplies, personal care products, crafts, painting, etc., and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every week. The Tuesday market is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every week.
“I think [the Tuesday market] is a perfect opportunity for people to shop because it’s not nearly as crowded, so for those people who may be higher-risk, [the market] is very spread out,” Morykwas said. “[It’s] a perfect place to get healthy local foods or to avoid the Saturday crowd.”