On any given day, before the coronavirus hit, about 500 businesses were open and humming in the Pike Place Market, tossing fish, selling produce and art, books, baked goods and everything in between.
In the last few months, that number has dropped to maybe 20 businesses. Maybe.
“The first week after the shutdown, some produce vendors had one customer all day,” said Patricia Gray of the Pike Place Market Foundation.
The 113-year-old Market has been coming back, with adaptations and safety protocols, Gray said. But so will a community that has been hurting financially and physically and needs help to recover.
At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the foundation is hosting “Support the Market,” a free, livestreaming virtual event that will showcase the people and performers of Pike Place while giving those who love it a chance to donate toward its recovery.
The event will feature behind-the-scenes looks at the Market community, and performances by artists from The Can Can Culinary Cabaret; Unexpected Productions’ improv; Kells Irish Pub band Stark Raving Plaid; aerialist Jody Poth from The Pink Door; longtime Market performer Jim Page; buskers Jeannie Rak and Carly Ann Calbero, and Seattle rock duo The Black Tones. It will be hosted by actor/comedian Ron Hippe.
Gray is hoping people from the region go to the foundation site and tune in, but also that those from around the country — and even the world — who have visited the Market, and love it, send help.
“This is a chance to bring the Market into your home at a time when people are missing these places,” Gray said. “It’s a place where people find their sense of home, the first place in Seattle most people fall in love with.
“People look at the Market and think it’s strong; it’s going to continue to be that. But it is made up of 500 small businesses that are very vulnerable right now.”
The money raised will be funneled through the foundation to three different funds that support market vendors and residents, including the Market Community Safety Net, which for 20 years has offered one-time emergency financial help; and a new Small Business Fund, which offers grants to help business owners recover from pandemic-related losses.
The entire Market support system has been impacted during the pandemic. The clinic hasn’t been able to perform nonessential services. The food bank has been regularly emptied. Seniors who are sheltering in place during the pandemic are receiving weekly groceries through the Pike Market Food Bank, and meals through a contract with Fare Start.
“These last few months have been rough,” Gray said, “so we’re looking to the future about how businesses can come back. It’s to shore up the future.”
There was no question the Can Can would join in the “Rally for the Market,” said Chris Pink, the unofficial “Mayor of the Market” and the cabaret’s founder.
Without the foundation, Pink said, “the most compromised folks in our neighborhood would be literally left in the cold,” he said. “The Foundation is the less glamorous, yet equally important side of this amazing ecosystem we are so lucky to be a part of.”
And he still feels lucky, even though Can Can has been closed since March and is still paying rent while losing crucial spring and summer revenue.
But the Can Can will be back, “without question,” Pink said.
“We came from nothing,” he said, “a dream and hope of survival 15 years ago and have been able to make it though the many obstacles a small business in the Market is faced with. We still know how to be scrappy and will do what it takes to survive.”
The theater already has a “fierce cleaning regimen,” and he is working with the Market to get more space. If that doesn’t work, he will have to reduce capacity. But he is surrounded by a strong and creative team and is an optimist.
“I assure you that we will come out of this as strong as ever.”
“Support the Market” is a callback to the landmark’s history. In 1971, citizens protested “to keep it an ideal urban community that includes housing, businesses and support services,” Gray said.
“People stood up and did whatever they could,” she added. “They saved the Market. It is because of those people that we have Pike Place Market,” which is now the only historic market in the country to survive the last century.
“This is our time to show up for the Market and make sure it comes out whole through this pandemic,” Gray said. “We are publicly owned and we are this community that welcomes and serves all kinds of people across the range. Babies to end of life.
“And it’s the locals who will save the place and care for the place. They’re the ones we’ve always needed.”
Viewers can tune in by following this link, and donate by texting MARKET to 91999