By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4)– The South Pearl Street Farmers Market will return on Sunday with special precautions for COVID-19 to make sure vendors and visitors stay safe. Organizers took extra time to start their season, planning an earlier open than usual this year and then pushing it back because of the coronavirus pandemic.

(credit: CBS)

“Certainly this year has been interesting because we’ve been relearning what we can do and what we will be able to do,” said Nicole Jarman, owner of HopNob Events. “I’m feeling really excited, I’m so happy that we’re able to be here, obviously it looks a lot different.”

Jarman is the event director of the farmers market, this is her 14th season and this weekend will be the 19th year since it first opened on Pearl Street. From 30 vendors in the beginning to 130 last year, the market now takes over two blocks on the street each Sunday running May to November. Planning picks up in mid-January and since March 15, they have made adjustments each week because of COVID-19.

“I feel great that we’re going to be able to be here, I feel great that we can support these small producers,” she said Friday. “I talked to a vendor late last night who said, ‘Oh my gosh I’m so thrilled to be there, I’ve lost eight weeks of sales and this is going to make it for my family.'”

(credit: South Pearl Street Farmers Market)

The focus this year will be on supporting local businesses but some of the features of the market will be gone, including live music and a balloon artist. Shoppers will not be allowed to eat at the market or sit down to enjoy food while at the event. There will be formal entrances and exits that guide people to walk in one direction, clockwise, and a limit on how many people can be inside at a time. Booths will also be six feet apart and everyone will be required to wear a mask. Square, Inc., the creator of the mobile payment system often used at markets, has donated 250 masks so organizers will not have to turn anyone away who does not bring one. There will also be hand washing stations located throughout the market.

“I feel ready, we have put a ton of precautions into place, I think we have a really good plan to keep vendors safe, and patrons safe,” Jarman told CBS4. “It means a lot, it means a lot to the street, the farmers markets started as a way to support the merchants on the street.”

Melrose & Madison is a clothing store located on Florida Ave. and Pearl Street that opened in 2013. The owners are a mother and daughter duo who say the market plays an important role in bringing them business each year. Their shop reopened over the weekend and they are eager to see more customers return to their store.

“It’s been going great, we’ve really missed our customers so we’ve loved seeing them come back,” said Kristen Brown, one of the owners of Melrose & Madison. “It brings so many people to the street so for us it’s been a real asset.”

(credit: CBS)

The family came up with the idea for the store because they loved shopping together as mother and daughter. The concept brings together styles from the east and west coasts that would appeal to Colorado residents.

“This neighborhood is the best, our customers from here are so nice,” she told CBS4 on Friday. “They’re so loving, they’re so welcoming, and I feel like they really support all of the people here on the street.”

The return of the farmers market will not only give nearby residents and visitors the chance to get outside but also bring together a community that has followed the stay-at-home order for almost two months. The timing of the market could also fit in well with concerns about food safety, produce from local vendors often gets handled by less people than items you would buy at a large chain store.

“It’s such a lovely concept and even more so now when were’ thinking about how many hands are touching our food,” Jarman said. “To bring people back to the street and remind them that there’s businesses here and support them is going to be huge.”

The South Pearl Street Farmers Market is every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Nov. 15.

LINK: South Pearl Street Farmers Market

Shawn Chitnis