A common scene during the pandemic.

Image: Jane Sherman

Normally around this time of year, Cafe Campagne has finished pouring generous amounts of rosé for Drink Pink and begun prepping for a storming of its patio on Bastille Day. But 2020, of course, had other plans. With social distancing mandates still in place for the foreseeable future, the French bistro in Post Alley has nixed its annual bashes. Patio seating isn’t even available at the moment. Foot traffic has crawled back to Pike Place Market, which saw its visitation plummet after the coronavirus outbreak. “It was startling,” says chef Daisley Gordon.

After 25-plus years at Cafe Campagne, Gordon harbors a deep affinity for the market's bustle, the charm of passersby eyeing crafts and produce and, perhaps, eventually sitting down for a little wine and cheese. Don’t let the postcards fool you, though. While Pike Place Market is a veritable Seattle institution, its enduring appeal rests on the backs of hundreds of small businesses and workers. And with cruises, conventions, and other reliable sources of tourist activity canceled, these micro-operations have suffered some of the greatest economic loss during the pandemic. “I don't know who was sitting on a big pile of cash to ride it out,” Gordon says.

Initially, Pike Place Market Foundation’s Market Community Safety Net provided emergency assistance to many of those businesses, as well as those living and accessing community services there. But those were stopgap payments. As our public health and economic crisis has continued, the foundation knew it needed to offer a longer-lasting form of support. So, for the first time in its history, the nonprofit is launching a small business recovery fund, according to community relations manager Patricia Gray. To help support that endeavor—as well as the Safety Net, the food bank, the medical clinic, the senior center, and other social services housed there—Pike Place Market Foundation has organized a campaign to raise $3.5 million  that will kick off via livestream on Thursday night.

Starting at 6:30pm, streamers can visit the websites (and Facebook pages) of Pike Place Market Foundation and Pike Place Market to watch “Support the Market,” which will feature music from the Black Tones (among others) and goodies available to order via a “Market Party Box” (think charcuterie). A portion of those proceeds will go toward the foundation’s efforts; you can also donate directly here.

The event will highlight how different parts of the market have adapted during the crisis. The team at Cafe Campagne has marshaled a takeout operation and purchased an electric bike to make deliveries to nearby homes. But these changes didn’t happen right away. Before the state’s stay-home order went into effect, Gordon and company tried to stick it out in Post Alley. They couldn’t have predicted the magnitude of the crisis to come. “It was like a boulder coming at you very slowly,” says Gordon. “You only saw how big it was when it was like 10 feet in front of you.”

Longtime market craftsperson Rayana White eventually had to abandon the area too. Her business, WithTheRain, normally sells rain boot liners fashioned from Goodwill sweaters and fleece socks, a must-have for fishermen and others hoping to keep their toes warm on our soggiest days. During the pandemic, she instead applied this ingenuity to a different product of great, and more immediate, regional significance: masks. She didn’t want to seem like she was profiting off a crisis (shipping costs wiped out any notion of that, anyway). But the demand kept coming. She’s made over 1,000 now. “It just snowballed,” she says.

Still, White misses the community where she’s raised her daughter, Charley Lahmeyer. She found out she was pregnant around the time she started at the market. Over the next couple of years, White brought Charley to work with her. Others in the vicinity helped out. “We call them market aunts and uncles and grandparents,” White says.

White has since signed up for the market’s preschool and childcare services. Meanwhile, Charley now sells necklaces to raise money to benefit the foundation. White calls her a "market kid," adding: "It’s a family."

Support the Market!
June 18, free to stream (donations encouraged)

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