red bank farmers market red bank farmers marketThe Red Bank Farmer’s Market reopened Sunday, with some changes to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The foremost modification: the market is now temporarily a drive-thru only, with customers encouraged to pre-order their purchases.

Kurt Poehler, above, and his crew from Spring House Farms were ready with arrays of colorful fruits and vegetables.

red bank farmers market karley corrisJeff’s Organic Produce owner Karley Corris selecting greens for a masked customer who stayed behind the wheel of her vehicle. Below, George Sourlis, whose family owns the Galleria, speaking with a customer waiting to enter the market lot. (Photos by John T. Ward Click to enlarge.)

red bank farmers market george sourlisIn early April, the Sourlis family-owned Galleria of Red Bank, which traditionally opens the market on Mother’s Day, announced that this year’s edition would be postponed until the pandemic passes.

But a replacement plan, with elements borrowed and modified from other, similar markets in the metro New York region, allowed for an alternative that got its debut run-through Sunday, said Galleria principal Ted Whitehouse.

Under the plan, a limited number of vehicles are allowed at any given time into the parking lot where vendors set up, with one entrance, on Bridge Avenue, and one exit, on West Front Street. Stalls were  more widely spaced than in the past.

Shoppers must be masked and stay in their vehicles, with masked vendors bringing items they’ve pre-ordered or selected a la carte to their cars.

Whitehouse called the drive-thru “the safest and best option for everyone.”

Shortly after the market opened at 9 a.m., a passerby on the West Front Street sidewalk, who was just learning that pedestrian access to the market was prohibited, called the restriction “ridiculous.”

But vendors, several of whom have sold at reconfigured farm markets in Highland Park, Montclair and elsewhere, seemed ready to adapt to the reality for the time being.

Karley Corris, owner of Jeff’s Organic Produce, said he she had received about 65 pre-orders for asparagus, broccoli rabe, spinach and more.

Alan Grossman, owner of Alan’s Flower Farm in Allentown, said he’d gotten just one advance order. But he said he’d tried the drive-thru concept for the first time just a day before, at his farm, and “it worked very well.”

A 20-year veteran of the Red Bank, said one downside was that there would be “no interaction, no comparison shopping” for customers.

“It’s better than not being here at all,” said Kurt Poehler, owner of Spring House Farms.

“It’s nice to be able to walk through and compare the vegetables – I still feel that,” said customer Franki DeSaro, a former Red Bank resident who now lives in Hunterdon County. But some of the organic plants she came for can’t easily be found elsewhere, she said, calling the market a “blessing.”

“We can’t do samples – that’s big for us,” said Dr. Pickle owner Josh Nadel. “We can’t put a pickle in a kid’s hand.” Also verboten: casks filled with brine and pickles for on-the-spot tonging: everything must now be pre-packaged, he said.

“But everybody seems to be rolling with it,” Nadel said.

The market will be open from 9 a.m, to 12 p.m.