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Reading Terminal Market businesses have suffered over the past several months due to the loss of many customers, especially tourists.

Credit: Vanessa Huang

Reading Terminal Market launched a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe to continue its operations as the COVID-19 pandemic persists and hurts business.

Reading Terminal Market, located on N. 12th Street in Philadelphia, is one of the largest and oldest public markets in the U.S., housing nearly 80 small businesses. The GoFundMe campaign, created on Oct. 7, aims to raise $250,000 to fund operational costs such as security, housekeeping, and building maintenance. Businesses operating at the Terminal have suffered over the past several months as they lose customers, especially tourists, due to the pandemic. 

The Terminal is also receiving financial help from Penn National Gaming, a Pennsylvania-based operator of casinos and racetracks, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Penn National Gaming plans to donate to the Terminal by matching money people spend on Barstool Sportsbook, a recently launched online betting app. Penn National Gaming will donate $100 to the Terminal for each first-time deposit of over $100 made into an account on Barstool Sportsbook until they reach their fundraising goal of $250,000, according to the Inquirer.

Several shop owners said they have experienced a loss in revenue since the start of the pandemic, especially because a lot of their sales came from tourists who were in Philadelphia for events held at the nearby Pennsylvania Convention Center. Some shops in the Terminal, such as Condiment and Tommy DiNic's, temporarily closed. It is not clear why Condiment closed, but a post on DiNic's Twitter page said it will shut its doors temporarily, “for the health and safety of our loyal customers, employees, and local community."

Credit: Vanessa Huang

Kamal's Middle Eastern Specialties on Nov. 3, 2020.

Rebecca Foxman, who owns Fox & Son Fancy Corndogs, one of the businesses housed in the Terminal, said the Terminal itself has helped shop owners during the pandemic by not penalizing them for late rent payments. She added that the Terminal also partnered with Mercato, a food delivery service, to help shop owners increase sales by delivering to customers who cannot shop in person.

“The [purpose of] fundraising is to fill in the gaps of what’s missing capital-wise from many merchants having a hard time paying their rent,” she said.

Owner of Downtown Cheese Jack Morgan said several of their local customers are now opting for cheaper options during the pandemic, adding that it’s difficult for small business owners to compete with chain grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s because they offer lower prices to customers.

Morgan said he now relies on his employees to operate his shop because he isn’t able to physically be there most days due to lung problems that make him especially vulnerable to COVID-19. He noted that he feels alienated from his shop for the first time after running it for 20 years.

Many Penn students also expressed sadness about the pandemic’s impact on the market and shared the GoFundMe page on their Instagram stories.

College sophomore Sydney Gillen said she was shocked to find out about the GoFundMe campaign because the Terminal has been around for a long time. 

Gillen said that growing up an hour away from Philadelphia, Reading Terminal Market would be the first place she recommended to people visiting and would visit the Terminal every time she was in the city.

“I have a lot of good memories of walking around the [the Terminal],” Gillen said. “It’s just a lot of good vibes in there.”

Reading Terminal Market is an integral part of the city of Philadelphia, Foxman said, citing the educational programs the Terminal hosts for students, including a food education summer camp for at-risk children.

“[Reading Terminal Market] is not a food court or grocery store,” Foxman said. “It’s a place that allows entrepreneurship to work and be affordable for members of the community.”