Market considered an essential service
LONDON, ONT. -- The Western Fair District Market took heavy criticism online this week, when it was announced the doors would stay open this weekend.
However, extreme precautions were put in place to ensure the safety of their customers and vendors.
Everyone entering had to pass screening, and once inside get their temperature taken and sanitize their hands before entering.
"We feel we are an essential service in Old East Village," says Dan Ross, manager of the market.
"A lot of our customers walk, and with the current discouraging of public transit, we wanted to keep the food chain up and running."
Despite tagging themselves as essential, traffic was way down.
"My customer base is about four per cent of normal," says Jeff Mussio, of Red Moose Beverage Bar.
While some merchants were seeing far less action, others felt a strong customer base was keeping them afloat.
"It's a little bit slower, but people need to eat," says Alan Mailloux of Downie St. Bakehouse in Stratford. "Supermarkets are open, so there is no reason we shouldn't be. We've taken all the precautions and more."
The market closed the second floor and decided to only open for food vendors. On Saturday, 26 of the 45 merchants were open, while 19 chose to stay home.
Shutting the doors wasn't an option for Edna Lorimer. "This is my livelihood," says Lorimer of Adventure Farms. "We have to have this, and we rely on this."
And customers were happy to shop locally. "I'd rather spend money with local vendors, so it stays within the city and supports them," says Gary Brown, who was more than willing to go through the screening at the entrance.
"I'm worried about small business owners at this time, and they are going to need us."
Ross echoed the statement of Brown, saying many of the merchants here need to keep making money.
"For a lot of our vendors, this is their full-time business," says Ross. "They are providing a vital service to the community and we respect that. For the vendors who chose not to be here, we respect those decisions as well."
Market executives were in contact with the Middlesex-London Health Unit all week and were told as a grocery market they were exempt from the limit of 50 people to one space.
At times there were around 100 people in the market, but officials say there is plenty of space to keep physical distancing.