The Better Pop had been scheduled to return to Smorgasburg last weekend, too, when its Brooklyn markets were supposed to reopen. They are on hiatus now, along with a year-round Los Angeles edition and a planned expansion of its World Trade Center market to two days a week from one. Many of Smorgasburg’s nearly 200 vendors are hanging in limbo, according to Jonathan Butler, one of the market’s founders.
Most Smorgasburg stalls take in more than $2,000 a day, he said, while some go up to $5,000. Most hire from two to six people to help out. The total daily sales was $150,000 for each of the two Brooklyn markets and less for the Los Angeles and World Trade Center markets.
While most vendors don’t have the rent obligations that restaurant owners do, “I suspect they’re feeling a similar level of panic,” he said. For many of the newer Smorgasburg vendors, “the thing they’re most qualified to do is go work in a restaurant. So it’s pretty grim. They don’t have a lot of prospects.”
Some seasonal vendors live all year on their summertime income. Others say the money is nice, but isn’t their first priority.
Like many of the people who sell food at the Queens Night Market, an outdoor bazaar of foods from around the world that has materialized every Saturday night from April to October for the past five years, Hendra Lie does not support himself with cooking. Serving the Indonesian food of his childhood from his stall, Warung Jancook, satisfied other needs.
“The Queens Night Market is my passion,” he said. “I like to cook. I like to present myself and the culture through food that I created.”
Still, the exposure and encouragement stirred his ambitions. Before the coronavirus descended on Elmhurst, Queens, where he lives, he had been planning an Indonesian restaurant. Now, he isn’t sure.