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But for restaurants, a bare Market(Street) in Lynnfield

By Anne Marie Tobin | March 25, 2020

LYNNFIELD — How has the coronavirus affected the popular MarketStreet shopping center?

It depends on where you look.

At Whole Foods Market, it’s business as usual with shoppers coming and going all day long, crowding into the store as they check off their grocery lists.

The rest of the center, however, has been reduced to a virtual ghost town.

A drive through MarketStreet on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon during the lunch hour normally brings with it an exasperating search for a place to park.

Not so this past weekend when the most common sights weren’t consumers, but  pedestrians, joggers and even a resourceful young boy playing street hockey — alone — in the middle of the street near an eerily empty Apple Store.

With limited traffic, MarketStreet is nonetheless actively encouraging the public to support its restaurants that are still open with its latest promotion, #TheGreatAmericanTakeout, which it announced via email on Tuesday. Patrons are asked to order takeout or delivery from their favorite restaurant and post to social media.  

MarketStreet sent out a mass email last week with detailed information on takeout and delivery options at several eateries to “help keep your family fueled and comfortable during this difficult time.” 

At the time, there were eight restaurants offering takeout or delivery options, but by Sunday the list had dwindled to six.

Wahlburgers has taken a unique approach, including a $5 gift card with every food purchase and has said as recently as Monday it is committed to remaining open even after Gov. Charlie Baker issued a “stay-at-home” advisory Monday.

“We want to give something back to the community during this tough time in appreciation for what it has given to us,” said General Manager Laura Scotina. “We feel that we are thankful to be able to have such great support in all the communities we serve. We are trying to hang in there and stay open so our employees can get their hours they need to support their families in this difficult time.”

Scotina added that business seemed to have picked up of late.

Other MarketStreet restaurants still open are Boloco, J.P.Licks, Otto Pizza, sweetgreen and Yard House.

Dale and Pam Sarno of Boston said they were looking for a quiet place on Saturday to relax after a week of being cooped up in their Downtown Crossing condominium.

“We came out here figuring it would be a good way to get out of the house after a week inside,” said Dale Sarno as the couple enjoyed a takeout pizza from Otto’s Pizza on a nearby bench. “I didn’t expect it would be this empty, though. I really worry about the mom and pop stores and businesses and how they can survive something like this.”

Business was light over the weekend at the Polka Dog Bakery, which looked to be the only other retailer with open doors. 

Store attendant Debbie Donovan said while business is down, the number of dog-walkers at MarketStreet seems to be going up.

“There are a lot of people who are now walking dogs here and some do wander into the store,” Donovan said. “Right now, we are assessing things day-to-day and likely will be considering reduced hours at some point if things don’t improve.”

Over at Whole Foods, it was business as usual, with a twist.

Lynn resident Auris Blanc, a Prime delivery driver, said his business has increased, citing the most common items his customers are ordering are frozen food items, bread and milk, adding he is taking added safety precautions.

“I use gloves and wear a mask and don’t allow any physical contact,” he said. “I just deliver the package to the door and that’s it.”

Noelia Gutierrez said her orders increased significantly as the week went on.

“It’s definitely been busier this week with things changing nearly every day,” said Gutierrez, a Methuen resident. “I feel badly about it because so many people are hurting these days, but the demand is obviously there.”