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Detroit — Eastern Market's typical shoulder-to-shoulder spring crowds have been replaced by a spread out atmosphere to keep the city moving, its president said.

The Market is home to more than 500 small businesses and during quarantining it's encouraging shoppers to spread out to keep the space clean, safe and open for those that need it.

Since the governor's March 24 "Stay Home. Stay Safe. Save Lives" order, which allows patrons to leave their homes for grocery shopping, the number of shoppers and vendors have dwindled dramatically, said Eastern Market President Dan Carmody.

On Saturday, the Market had 30 vendors instead of 175.

"A lot of people confuse us with being a party place on a warm Saturday morning, but we're different than a grocery store. We're a provider of healthy food for a dense population where that's not easily accessible," Carmody said. "It's still a dramatic decrease so we're social distancing at ease. We had about 800 to 1,000 people come through as opposed to a normal April Saturday which brings in 15,000 to 20,000 people."

The city's confirmed cases of coronavirus are hovering just under 4,000 and it has recorded 129 deaths as officials implement stricter measures to keep residents safe.

The Market remains open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Vendors with food, vegetables, plants and personal care products will still be available but are shifting procedures and spaces to limit contact and meet social distancing requirements.

They have launched a food box pickup program where customers can pre-order food during the week and pick up between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Orders for next week will open at noon on Monday on their website on a first-come-first-serve basis, officials said.

"We started with 50 boxes and grew to 150 this week and aiming for 300 boxes next week," Carmody said. "We started the boxes to help many of our small growers stay afloat. The boxes start at $20 and people can add additional items. When they come to pick it up, they'll simply open their trunk and someone will place it in their car."

Shoppers with large bulk produce orders can visit the drive-thru Market 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays with products from wholesalers in the district. The drive-thru has five stops of produce, Milano Bakery, and three meat vendors.

The Market is pairing with Forgotten Harvest and other nonprofits to donate fresh produce during the pandemic. They're also packing 175 lunches for workers at Beaumont and Henry Ford hospitals. Carmody said the main goal is to help the philanthropic communities while keeping people safe and supporting other businesses.

"One of the consequences is that Walmart and Amazon are not the only way to shop for groceries and stay safe," he said.

"We can’t wait for the days when we can all make the market our gathering place but until then, we are here for those that need us most."

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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