HALIFAX -- The Cape Breton Farmers Market in Sydney opened its doors on Saturday for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

During the pandemic, the market lost vendors and suffered financial hardship. The market hopes community support will help them bounce back.

“It’s not the same when you’re selling online and doing deliveries. So, your face-to-face time is very minimal,” said Steve Smith, a vendor at the market and owner of Bungalow Beans.

Smith says his coffee products provide a social aspect, one that he was not able to deliver when the market was closed.

“People want their coffee while they’re hanging out with other people. They want their coffee while they’re walking around the Farmers Market,” said Smith. “It’s very social and the farmers market is a very social entity as well.”

“We don’t know if customers are going to embrace it or if they’re going to be nervous to come back. It’s kind of a wait and see game for us,” said market manager, Pauline Singer.

Singer says during the pandemic, many vendors closed and never came back. She said in a time that it’s been difficult to keep the lights on and pay the bills, she was relieved to see many people coming through the doors on Saturday.

“We did not qualify for any funding until the second round of the CERB loans came out,” said Singer. “We only received that $40,000 loan three weeks ago, so we went from March until September with zero income.”

Singer says some vendors rely on the income generated from the market to survive each year.

“We pay commercial rent here, so it was a struggle for us,” said Singer. “And we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose this for our community, and wanted to make sure all our vendors didn’t lose their business.”

The market drew large crowds to the downtown before the pandemic hit, and many hope the crowds will come back and support local during these difficult times.