As businesses throughout Turlock begin to reopen with precautions during the coronavirus pandemic, one of the community’s favorite places to gather and shop returned to Main Street on Saturday with the new season of the Turlock Certified Farmers Market.
The downtown market filled with locally grown produce and handcrafted goods typically opens during the first weekend of May, but stay-at-home orders throughout the state forced the TCFM Board to postpone the outdoor shopping event until June. It was TCFM Board President Brandon Follett’s hope that despite nearby markets starting back up at that time, a later opening date would put TCFM in step with other downtown businesses as they were slowly allowed to reopen.
For the market vendors who welcomed back customers on Saturday, it was better late than never.
“I was nervous because I thought the market was going to be pushed back a few extra months,” Tealey Tea owner Kiley Keas said. “I’m just happy that we’re here and even able to do this. Hopefully everyone stays healthy and happy.”
The shutdown was unprecedented for longtime market vendor Legacy Toffee. Part-owner Julie Burke said she was eager to get back to the farmers market after missing out on Mother’s Day sales — one of the business’ best-selling holidays.
“We weren’t sure what was going to happen…I’m happy they waited, and that’s probably why it’s so successful this morning,” Burke said. “We missed seeing the people and that’s the best part of it for us. We’ve got a great crowd this morning — I think people were just anxious to get back out and see other people.”
Hand sanitizers could be seen at every booth, as well as vendors wearing masks. While many attendees were not masked, other precautions have also been taken at the market to curb the spread of COVID-19. For example, Legacy Toffee now passes out individually-wrapped samples rather than allowing customers to grab them on their own, and Hailey Kellstrom of Soaps by Hailey has to remind customers that she’ll hold any items they’d like to see or smell for them.
The crowd at the market on Saturday was similar to attendance one would expect on any regular weekend not taking place during a pandemic. TCFM Board member Jeani Ferrari said the market could have opened sooner, but the mood of the community “didn’t feel right” as businesses remained shuttered.
Ferrari believed that Saturday’s TCFM opening helped the community return to a sense of normalcy.
“I’ve seen people I haven’t seen in so many months…I don’t think any of us have done anything in a group setting for so long, so just to look over and see a friend or the people who shopped here last year feels so good,” Ferrari said.
Kellstrom, who is also a TCFM Board member, said the timing of the market’s return was perfect as downtown restaurant, boutiques, gift shops and salons begin to open their doors to the public once more.
“I really didn’t foresee it happening maybe even until July. I’m grateful to be open today but it’s very different,” Kellstrom said. “These businesses have been closed for so many months, so we’re really grateful there are no issues and we can be side by side with them.”
The delayed opening came one season after TCFM was able to return to its downtown home after being pushed out of Main Street by a competing market and contentious City Council decision. Despite unforeseeable setbacks in recent years, the market continues to thrive.
“What’s great about this market is how resilient it is. There’s a core group of vendor and board members who have been here since almost the beginning, so it’s a lot of fun,” Burke said.
The Turlock Certified Farmers Market is held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday on Main Street between Palm Street and Center Street.