Mark your calendars: Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market is back. September 29 is the official re-opening of the popular market day, according to the Gulfport Merchants Chamber.
“The only difference between the way it was pre-COVID and now is the attention to detail; it’s about protecting the clientele,” said GTFM co-manager and owner of Sumitra Maurice Loeb. “We’re taking huge steps in order to get that accomplished.”
Loeb says there will be hand-washing stations, hand sanitizer and roaming market ambassadors to encourage face covering and hand out free masks to those who need them.
“We’re making sure all the vendors are staying compliant with all of our rules and regulations,” said Loeb. “Particularly the food vendors. They are going to be under strict guidelines. There will not be any tastings.”
If free treats were your thing, don’t worry: Some vendors will still have samples in closed containers to go.
To help with crowding and to promote social distancing, the market is admitting 30 fewer vendors and has changed the tent set up.
New operational guidelines for the GTFM require all 57 vendor booths to be spaced further apart and rotated sideways to free up congestion on the sidewalks.
“We’re also going to be very sensitive to our merchants. We’re going to place our concentration on quality, not necessarily quantity,” said Loeb. “And they’re going to be very innovative.”
Loeb promises market organizers will choose vendors on their locality, creativity and quality of their work.
“We’re going to try and keep it as local as possible and we’re going to see things that were created with their hands,” said Loeb. “That’s more important than folks shopping on the internet and reselling it.”
The idea of the market, Loeb said, is to supplement brick-and-mortar businesses – not to impede them.
“We have businesses that are open all year around and the vendors are a supplement to that,” said Loeb. “The vendors are a supplement to our main attraction, which is Gulfport and the merchants from Gulfport.”
For Loeb and market organizers, the challenges of pandemic planning come with a silver lining.
“COVID has given us the opportunity to take a look [at the market] and ask, ‘How can we make this better?’” said Loeb.
“The market is a symbol of our community,” said Barbara Banno, president of the GMC. “And we feel that all of the guidelines we will have in place do add a lot of safety to the community and adds a little bit of normalcy back into our lives.”
The market is on Beach Boulevard, south of 28th Avenue South, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Tuesday. Check out Visit Gulfport for more.
Send inquiries about Gulfport’s Tuesday Fresh Market to email@example.com.