CHARLESTON, S.C.- Shopping in the historic Market in downtown Charleston looks different to accommodate new COVID-19 safety precautions.
“When we saw the new cases of coronavirus spiking in South Carolina, it alarmed us,” Market manager Barry Newton said. “We want to make sure that we can provide the safest environment for everybody.”
This is the first weekend the market has been open in three months.
“It’s been hard, it’s been over 90 days since I’ve been out on the market,” vendor Michael Ellis said. “The market just re-opened back up. Which is a good thing. But now you can see we’ve closed the inside because people are not wearing their masks.”
One of the most visible changes include turning all vendors toward the street, so shoppers browse from the outside.
Vendor Steve Salomon said they tried to hand out masks to many visitors on Friday, but after minimal usage, officials decided to put in more precautions.
“We set out tables between the buildings to offer sanitizer and masks to many of the customers that were here and it just became a little challenging,” Salomon said.
Currently, the market is operating with half the vendor capacity, around 50 of the 100 vendors that usually sell during the weekends.
“The vendors have done a terrific job they’ve been very adaptable. They have done everything they can to be as safe as possible,” Newman said. “I don’t want to call this the new normal, I want to call it the new now because this is what I feel we need to do right now.”
Newman also confirmed that he is reducing the fees for sellers over the next few months if they don’t feel comfortable returning just yet.
“Starting in July, to still keep their permanent spot, they do have to pay 25 percent of their monthly rent and then in August it goes up to 50, then September 75 and then October 100 percent,” Newman said. “So this gives them four months to hire employees or decide exactly what is best for them.”
Right now, Ellis says he’s relieved to sell his sweetgrass baskets again, but safety is consistently on the forefront of his mind.
“I just want everybody be safe, I want everybody to wear their mask so we can really open the market back up and that’s the most important thing,” Ellis said.