Pikowski’s Pierogi Place in the Broad Street Market usually has all six burners running to cook its tasty pierogis. On Friday, there was only one.
Owner Carolyn Pikowski said that, after a few bumper weeks, business is noticeably down.
COVID-19, with the accompanying recommendations to avoid large groups of people, appears to be the culprit.
As people greeted one another with modified fist bumps, Albert Mauldin sat at a table with his calendar and phone. He said that he’s at the market at least twice a week, that it serves as his office away from home.
“People are afraid, thinking about not being in crowded areas,” he said.
But he’s still there, and he said that he won’t let fear control him.
Stirring her salted mackerel with bananas and dumplings, Nadine Graham from Porter’s House Jamaican Cuisine said that her business is down about 30 percent. Although, across the courtyard in the brick building, the R.G. Hummer Meats & Cheese stand was bustling with activity.
“This is the stuff you buy to stock your fridge,” said owner Ryan Hummer.
He doesn’t necessarily expect the uptick to last.
“We don’t know what the future holds,” he said. “We’re still offering quality fresh products to the city.”
The market’s executive director, Josh Heilman, echoed Hummer’s sentiments.
“We’re a distributor of good food and groceries and will remain open as long as we can,” he said.
He pointed out that, for some people in the city, this is the only place to buy groceries.
Heilman said that cleaning has increased, and now the market receives a deep cleaning, after the end of each market day.
“Vendor and market staff have come together as a team to put customer safety in mind,” he said.
Vendors are increasing vigilance by removing condiment containers, so the public doesn’t handle them; not taking reusable cups for drinks; and increasing the level of sanitization.
Heilman said that, in general, the customers’ vibe is upbeat.
This was a rather routine day for Katie Sykes with her four boys, ages 8 months to 7 years, in tow. As her 5-year-old waited for his tea at Elementary Coffee Co., Sykes said that she wasn’t really concerned about the coronavirus.
“We’re here to get healthy foods that keep us healthy so we don’t get sick, and we like to support our favorite stands,” said Sykes.
Steeping the tea, manager of Elementary Coffee, Jo Martin, answered with a “Thank you. We appreciate that.”
Martin wasn’t quite so casual about the virus fallout.
“It’s not the actual virus itself, but the economic ramifications,” she said.
She said that business was noticeably down yesterday. She’s concerned that, with decreased business comes decreased hours, and said it’s already happened to her friends in the food service industry.
Pikowski voiced the same concern.
“When you’re not making money, you don’t have the money to spend eating out,” she said.
Because of the past few lucrative weeks, she made extra product to sell today, which will likely head to the freezer.
Micha Pak, owner of Kabob House, said that today wasn’t too good, but not terrible. She added that she hopes that she and all the vendors can weather this time “without too much trouble.”
Even as the market was slower today, people still showed up. Bits of conversation about the coronavirus rose above the banter, as people purchased produce, waited to order fish at Tep’s Fresh Seafood, and greeted friends.
Many vendors had a wait and see attitude, which was best summed up by Hummer.
“We will adapt and overcome to whatever hand we’re dealt,” he said.
Click here for more on the effect of the coronavirus on Harrisburg’s small businesses.