East Lansing will host an “underground market,” in the lowest level of the M.A.C. Avenue garage this Sunday, Feb. 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Local vendors will be there selling their products and safety precautions have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Karla Forrest-Hewitt, the market manager, said the market was created as a safe space where East Lansing residents could support their local businesses.
“My hope is that this market will help give our residents and surrounding communities an opportunity to feel connected,” Forrest-Hewitt said in an email.
Forrest-Hewitt said to make the market as safe as possible, the city follows the guidelines set by the Michigan Farmers Market Association and the Ingham County and Michigan Department of Agriculture.
She said they also have expectations for their customers:
Masks will be required at the market and in other parts of downtown East Lansing, both indoors and outdoors.
Community members should stay home if they are sick.
In the market, customers will be required to keep at least six feet between other customers not in the same household.
Customers are should limit their shopping groups to no more than two people.
The market will have one-way directional traffic and designated entrances and exits.
Food should be eaten at home or at the designated outdoor dining spaces.
Animals will not be permitted, excluding services animals.
Jennifer Rusnock, owner of Jenny’s Sweets & Treats, has been selling at the summer East Lansing Farmer’s Market for six years, but this is her first time going to a winter market.
Rusnock, who specializes in vegan and gluten-free baked goods, said she is excited to see how it goes. She said COVID precautions now prevent her from handing out samples of her baked goods, which used to bring in a lot of business.
“Hopefully people will want to get out and do something and shop local and get a chance to come down and see us,” Rusnock said.
Rusnock said her bestselling item is her decorated sugar cookies, and she will be offering a new themed cookie at each market, including Valentine’s Day-themed for this weekend.
For Tim Darche, owner of River Tree Coffee Company, this Sunday will be his first experience selling his coffee at a market. Darche started his one-man business in 2018 and roasts all of the coffee he offers himself.
“I don’t really have any expectations as of yet because I don’t know what to expect,” Darche said. “But (I’m) excited to maybe get my company’s name out there a little bit more and work toward a more commercial space at some point here in the near future.”
The market is part of the “Daytime. Nighttime. Anytime. Place Project,” to help boost East Lansing’s local economy during the pandemic. Adam Cummins, the administrator of community and economic development for the city, said the market is one of many programs they have been working on to bring people downtown.
Cummins said he’s hoping the city can learn what draws people in the most out of all the programs they’ve done and continue to implement that knowledge after the pandemic.
“It’s going to benefit East Lansing in the long term if some of this sticks,” Cummins said. “Our hope is for long-term change.”
The market will run on Feb. 14, Feb. 28, March 14, March 28, April 11, April 25 and May 9.
Click here to see photos of the first market on Valentine's Day.
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