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Local fresh markets to reopen after pandemic year loss



AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s been a devastating year for downtown festivities being canceled or postponed constantly due to the pandemic.

But plans are in the works so we can all get back to enjoying Augusta events safely.

“The first time we went, we thought it was going to be kind of small, but it was massive. We sold out within like three to four hours of just empanadas, and it’s a huge crowd,” Andre Walker said.

Walker is the co-owner of La Taberna Dominicana. His restaurant got its start at the Augusta Market about four years ago

“Pretty much, 2016, we were a little broke and we went to the market and start selling empanadas, and it just grew,” he said.

This Saturday market on the river drew in nearly thousands of shoppers and more than 50 local vendors.

But COVID-19 shut it down, and since then the market square has been an empty reminder of the pandemic’s effect in our city.

“It hurt us a lot. … Like we had bought so much stuff to go to the market, so we had no choice but to figure it out,” Walker said. “We actually started serving empanadas and food out of the apartment, to try to compensate for how much we spent, and it paid off in the end. But it was a huge loss.”

It was a loss for other businesses like Cynthia Robinson’s Hot Spot Fish ‘n’ Grits.

“I just kind of stopped. … Every now and then, I’d go somewhere and have a pop-up to just satisfy my customers, but I really missed it.”

Robinson is known for selling her fish and grits at the market for more than 20 years. But after the market closed, she stopped serving regularly.

But now: “I’m very excited. I miss my customers so I’m ready to go back,” she said.

She and dozens of other vendors will be back for the market re-opening on March 20.

For everyone’s safety, food will be take-out only, there will be limited entrances, disinfecting stations, vendors will be spread out, and they ask that you mask up.

“As long as everybody you know stays safe and wears their masks and social distance, I think they’ll feel comfortable,” Robinson said.

The CDC does consider farmers’ markets an essential service.

Many other local markets are making a return soon too, like the Evans Market on April 17 and Edgefield’s Market on March 12.

It starts with the market, but its return is opening a door for other events too.

The safety plan for the market will be used as the model to re-launch other city events.

The Parks and Recreation Department formed a committee to look at safety measures for events. Members of that committee are from the mayor’s office, Augusta Pride, Greater Augusta Arts Council, and more. They will meet weekly.