After launching the White Rock Farmers’ Market 2020 season last month as “essentially an outdoor grocery market,” officials say there will be a bit of sparkle returning to the weekly affair starting this Sunday, as pandemic-related limitations around who can sell relax.
Market manager Helen Fathers – who is also a City of White Rock councillor – said Friday (June 5) that for the first time since the May 3 opening, the market – operating in the uptown centre – will boast its full spectrum of vendors, not just those that are food-only.
“This week will be the first week of going back to all of the vendors, so we are excited, obviously, to welcome back all those vendors that haven’t been allowed to sell,” Fathers said.
“They call me every week, ‘Can we come back this week?’” she added, referring to jewelry vendors and other artisans who have historically booked stalls at the market.
Up until this week, Fathers has had to answer no, but now, she can say, “‘You can.’
Fathers doesn’t expect, however, that music will be returning to the market this season. Not having that element, she said, has been “so hard… a bit of a blow for us.”
Open from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. on Sundays through Oct. 25, market visitors are asked to ‘shop – don’t stop,’ as part of measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Fathers said those who have been coming out – attendance, at around 1,500 per week, is about half of what it’s been in previous seasons, she said – are largely mindful of the requests to not simply meander through.
“What we’ve found is the people that come to the market, they’re coming… to buy what they want to buy and then they’re leaving,” she said. “It’s actually been really positive for the vendors, because the vendors, they’re selling out. Everyone that is coming, is buying.”
A significant challenge of the pandemic has been the financial impact felt by the restriction on vendors.
“The biggest thing is… if you don’t have the vendors paying the fees, then you don’t have, obviously, you don’t have the revenue,” Fathers said. “We’re not losing money, but we’re being very, very cautious.
“Like most businesses, you can’t continue like this for a large length of time, you have to make drastic cuts.
“We’re only surviving because we’ve been able to claim the wage subsidy,” she added, referring to the federal government program that provides businesses with 75 per cent of each employee’s salary, up to $847 each week.
Fathers was hopeful an announcement expected from the ministry of agriculture Friday afternoon (June 5) would include some funding allocation for markets.
Another change visitors to the White Rock market may notice this week is a reconfiguration of its layout, due to Bosa beginning construction on the next phase of the Miramar Plaza.
“So the fence line has been changed on us, so we’ve had to kind of move around that a little bit,” Fathers explained. “The market looks a little bit different to what it has done in the past because we don’t have that bottom south-end area, so we just kind of wrapped it around the community centre.
“We’ve taken more room on Russell Avenue heading west as well.”
Depending on the turnout, visitors may have a short wait in line to enter. Fathers said there are two entrance points, hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer – all part of efforts to keep the market operating safely.
“All of our staff, we haven’t had any training in this,” Fathers noted, of running a business during a pandemic.
“We’re only using common sense and doing the best we can.”