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The Broadway Market bustles every Easter ... but not this year

If the world hadn't been turned upside down by coronavirus, the Broadway Market would be pulsing with life right now.

A week before Easter, customers would be shoulder to shoulder at the 132-year-old market, clamoring for smoked kielbasa, traditional pierogi and Polish wooden eggs called pisanki. Families with children would take turns posing with the Easter bunny, then stop at the giant wooden butter lamb for more pictures.

But the world is upside down right now. And instead of being alive with shoppers, the market is as quiet as it might be any other weekend.

That isn't good for the market's vendors, who rely on the spike in sales during the Easter rush to get them through the slower times during the rest of the year.

"Usually during Easter week on a Friday I would have 14 or 15 workers behind the counter with me," said Rita Milligan, a worker at White Eagle Bakery. "This year I'll have one or two of my grandkids at the most. We don't need more than that."

The bakery has been around since 1925 and is one of the Broadway Market's mainstays. Typically, it has two stands at the Broadway Market during the Easter season, but it's down to just one.

This time of year, there is usually a crush of customers surrounding the bakery in search of placek, braided loaves and poppy bread. Now the busiest it gets is two or three customers at once. There are often long periods when there are no customers at all.

White Eagle did $300 in sales last Saturday. Historically, it would have made more than $3,000. Sales during the Easter season typically account for 80% to 90% of the stand's sales for the year.

"Most people here stay afloat because of Easter," Milligan said. "I'm hoping things will pick up."

Camellia Meats has been in business since 1935. It is one of the few Broadway Market vendors that has found a steady following in the neighborhood, so it has the benefit of serving panicked customers who are trying to stock their freezers during the pandemic.

But Camellia's owners still are missing that Easter-time rush.

Easter is when it gets to sell its specialty smoked and fresh Polish sausage, and Easter hams.

"It’s just kind of discouraging. It’s nice when we’re selling the stuff that we’re making right here in Buffalo," said Adam Cichocki, Camellia co-owner.

Fortunately, Camellia didn't make too many of those specialty items ahead of time, so it won't be stuck with too much excess inventory.

"We will be taking a hit on the amount of products we sell and the money brought in, but it's not gonna end anything," Cichocki said.

The Broadway Market has been at the heart of the Old Polonia neighborhood since 1888. It has struggled in recent years, as much of the Polish community that supported it moved to the suburbs. Each year at Easter, those old customers return to the market in search of both nostalgia and the makings of their Easter celebrations.

This year, without those big crowds, some vendors are wondering if they will be able to make it another year.

"A thing people tend to forget about the Broadway Market is that it’s open year-round and vitally important to the Broadway-Fillmore community," said Christopher Byrd, a neighborhood activist and editor of Broadway-Fillmore Alive, a website devoted to the neighborhood.

The profits vendors bank during the Easter season are what make it possible for many of them to remain open and serve the neighborhood the rest of the year, Byrd said.

The Broadway Market is working with vendors to facilitate curbside order pickups. Customers who place orders a day in advance can coordinate with the market's office to set up a curbside delivery the next day.

Some vendors, such as Keeping Traditions Pierogi and Malczewski's Butter Lambs, have pooled resources to offer home delivery for orders of $50 or more. Those who can't afford a $50 order can ask for special arrangements based on where the delivery is going.

But customers who want to keep the Easter tradition of visiting the market to pick up their holiday necessities still can. And they will likely get in and out faster than they would at their regular supermarket, vendors said.

The market's vendors, like retailers across the region, have taken steps to enforce social distancing. The Babcia's Pierogi stand, for instance, has red lines on the floor to keep customers separated.

"We want people to know the market is still here, our vendors are here and we're open for business," said Kathy Peterson, the Broadway Market's manager.

For curbside pickup: Call to place orders with your desired vendors 24 hours in advance and request curbside pickup. The vendor will let the the market office know you're coming and will prepare your order. The office will arrange your specifics, and you'll pull up to the front of the market the next day to collect your purchase.

For home delivery: Broadway Market vendors that make up the Buffalo Food Makers collaboration are delivering orders to Erie, Niagara, Monroe, Genesee and Wyoming counties. A menu of items and prices are listed at KissedByTheSunSpiceCo.com and include offerings from Keeping Traditions Pierogi, Malczewski's Butter Lambs, Yancey's Fancy, We R Nuts and Famous Horseradish.

Payments are made by card over the phone and deliveries are made within two to four business days. To order, call 435-0092.

Get your Easter essentials, shopping at Broadway Market and more from a distance

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