CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Dozens of Vendors and hundreds of customers are descending on Pen Park, looking to reclaim a weekend tradition: the Saturday City Market.
Coronavirus has forced the market to go mobile, moving to a contactless, to-go format. Customers ordered online, hundreds of cars lined up as early as 8 a.m. to stock up on farm-fresh produce, meat, and more from their favorite vendors.
“It’s been hard for the community,” Longbottom Farm Co-owner, and practicing nurse, Lexi Feyerherd said. "It’s been really heartening how everybody just comes together and makes the best of it.”
The turnout may have been less than a normal Saturday market, but to vendors who depend on this for their livelihood, it was a blessing.
“We got 400 today which is still totally amazing for all of us vendors who thought we were gonna have zero customers this weekend," Jam According to Daniel Owner Daniel Perry said.
The event was announced on Wednesday, but organizers say the plan had been in the works for some time. Customers ordered in advance online and then arrived at Pen Park to shop on Saturday morning. At the end of the day, the market had more than 397 orders.
“As soon as they come here, we make sure to give them a nameplate,” City Market Manager Justin McKenzie said. “Our vendors can anticipate who’s coming up and get their order ready for them to make the process as quick and safe as possible.”
Organizers also say safety is key, for both buyers and sellers. According to McKenzie, the touch-less system might be more hygienic than regular trips to the grocery store.
“(Vendors) are the only ones that are touching the product, for the most part, they’re putting it in the bags for you," McKenzie explained. "They’re putting it directly in your, your car so there is no other hands go over it.”
The vendors themselves say they are going above and beyond with their precautions.
“We’re all on masks, we’re sanitizing our gloves or replacing them when we touch things,” Perry said. “I think all of us all have bleach spray and Clorox wipes.”
The City says that while this is the first week of the drive-thru market, it won’t be the last. They expect this format to continue for as long as it’s the safest option for buyers and sellers.