THERE was a jubilant atmosphere outside Mahon Point Shopping Centre today as the popular Farmers Market returned.
In line with the Government roadmap, open space retail has been allowed to resume from May 18.
A one-way system is now in place with an entrance and exit point to ensure people’s safety and appropriate social distancing.
"We’ve used twice the amount of space coming into the adjacent car park so we can put lots of space between the stalls," Market Manager Rupert Hugh-Jones told The Echo. "We also marked spots so people can queue safely for stalls.
"We’ve started with about half the stalls today just to work through any teething problems which may arise and then we’ll gradually get back the numbers as the weeks go by and we’ll see what happens."
Stallholders, who ceased trading on March 12, expressed their delight to return to some semblance of normality.
"It’s fantastic to be back in action at the Farmers Market,” Virginia O’Gara co-owner of vegan food company, My Goodness said.
"It’s a really beautiful sunny day there are lots of people milling about at a safe distance from each other and most people who have come here today have said that it’s really nice to have so much space to be able to enjoy the sunshine, enjoy good food and feel safe about it."
Ms O’Gara said she believes the decision to close farmers markets was made with "good intentions" but that it may have been safe to recommence sooner.
"Farmers' Markets are usually well organised and managed impeccably well," she said. "I believe we could have gone forward with these regulations weeks ago but that’s neither here nor there.
"It’s given us all a little bit of time to think about how we can do it perfectly."
Veteran stallholder The Rocket Man, a healthy food business owned by mother and son duo Simone Kelly and Jack Crotty, were busy serving pre-packaged salads and click-and-collect orders.
"We’re delighted to be back. This is what we do best," Ms Kelly said.
Ms Kelly said she was in full support of the decision to close the market.
"I was right behind Rupert," she said. "He called me and asked if I thought if it was right and I thought yes, definitely.
"You couldn’t have done this if we hadn’t had the lockdown.
"People are in the habit [of social distancing] and people aren’t as intimidated or frightened anymore.
"It’s become a way of living and it’s the new way of living – it ain’t going to change.”
Michelle Cashman co-owner of Ballinrostig Organic Cheese also expressed her delight to be back trading at the Market but disagreed with the decision to close farmers markets in the first instance.
"It’s lovely to be back, all our regulars seem to be supporting us and it’s great to get out," she said.
"Also to be frank we need the revenue as the markets haven’t been going for so long.
"They didn’t close supermarkets so what’s the difference? We’re outdoors and 50% of our revenue is markets. It’s obvious that the view of food markets is not what we see it as.
"We see it as food producers selling to locals but other people seem to think it’s an event or something."
Sarah Meaney of family-run business, Nutcase Food Company, admitted that she was happy if a little "apprehensive" to be back trading again.
"This is a trial run to see how it goes and then we can reassess if needed," she said.