Shoua Her fluffs a vibrant bouquet of dazzling zinnias, lilies, and dahlias from a tent propped up on Martin Street in Moore Square. It’s cool for June after a week of relentless rain, and it’s the first time in a while that pedestrians have casually walked the streets downtown.
Coronavirus brought business to a screeching halt in March, followed by weeks of protests over racist policing. The windows of shops downtown remain boarded up from the riots that resulted in widespread vandalism, offering little by way of commerce in the usually bustling downtown.
After weeks of sheltering indoors due to the pandemic, Shoua Her is glad to be out on the streets greeting customers again. After moving to the Triangle from Chicago, she opened up Shoomee’s Flowers in Apex to bring her love of floral arrangements to life.
“I am very happy,” Her tells me as she wraps the bouquet in paper. “It means a lot to me because I know I’ll be bringing joy to people’s homes and offices, people who can’t really leave the city.”
Her was just one of about 17 vendors—selling everything from soap to legumes—that kicked off the launch of Moore Square Market’s second year Wednesday. To ensure safety, hand-sanitizer stations were installed and tents were spaced about a dozen feet apart, said David Moore, the placemaking and activities manager for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.
“It’s bringing some liveliness back to downtown,” Moore says. “We have to get back to a place where we can provide some of these activities in the safest way possible. You don’t want your community to be dead forever.”
This year, the program is partnering with the federal SNAP program to allow food-stamp recipients to double up on fresh produce. The program matches each SNAP benefit with an additional $10 worth of fruits or vegetables, a much-needed resource for low-income families living and working downtown with limited access to fresh food.
Participating in the program is Nanue’s Farms, which specializes in hydroponic lettuce. Owner Trevor Spear said his Raleigh farm is reimbursed for the extra lettuce they give away to SNAP customers.
“I’m happy they are getting fresh produce because you worry when they are in that situation what quality food they are eating,” Spear says.
Nearby, Johnetta West was mixing up a batch of her aptly-named “OMG Banana Pudding.”
“I’m telling you,” West says, her eyes grinning above the face mask. “The first thing people say when they put it in their mouth is “oh my god!”
More than 25 small businesses will be showcasing their local products in the park through the fall. The market runs every Wednesday from 3:00–6:00 p.m. through October 21. For more information, visit downtownraleigh.org/farmers-market.
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