Angela Shen during one of the first pickup events. Courtesy of Savor Seattle Tours.

For the past 12 years, Eastside resident and business owner Angela Shen has been guiding visitors and locals on culinary-themed tours through Pike Place Market, via her successful Savor Seattle Tours, gaining accolades and national recognition along the way.

Then in March, when Savor Seattle was met with the COVID crisis’ seemingly insurmountable challenge, Shen’s quick and strategic thinking helped her business pivot, expanding it throughout Seattle, the Eastside, and nationwide.

Small businesses and their memorable connections with visitors typically are the heart of Pike Place Market or any retail center of regional goods. Shen recognized this key value and flipped the narrative to fit the new times – if she couldn’t bring people to the market, she would bring the market to the people.

Creating a campaign on GoFundMe to raise the initial seed capital, Savor Seattle organized an early “beta” release of just under 50 orders of pre-selected goods from participating Pike Place Market vendors, ranging from fresh produce to prepared foods and snacks, items that typically would meet the needs of an average household’s grocery store trip. Each order includes products from roughly a dozen different vendors, plus a portion of each sale is donated to the Pike Place Market Foundation Safety Net Fund.

Market Box product shot. Courtesy of Savor Seattle Tours.

Since that test run, Savor Seattle has been filling hundreds of orders per week of their Iconic Market Box, via delivery or designated pickup locations. About 25 percent of those doorstep deliveries are throughout Eastside cities including Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond, with plans to expand delivery zones further into Woodinville and Issaquah.

Partnering with Eastside businesses like Patterson Cellars for pop-up curbside pickup events allows for unique add-ons, like wine purchases. Shen said Eastside customers praise the service, not only for overall health concerns, but as something they would continue into the long term.

“(The market) is a place that they know is dear, but it’s hard to get to because they don’t want to fight traffic and find parking. It’s helped them rediscover gems in their own backyard, and it’s both safe and easy for them to do.”

Continuing to broaden its horizons, Savor Seattle has started shipping non-perishable treats in curated Market Favorite Boxes, which are sent throughout the country. Continuing growth has given the company the opportunity to bring back some employees and develop new roles for the evolving business.

Shen’s connections to community and well-developed relationships with neighboring businesses have fueled Savor Seattle’s rapid mobilization. For all its innovation, its focus remains on a genuine concern for people’s overall wellness and a need for assurance.

“Meet their emotional needs first and foremost,” she said about establishing trust with customers, a nurturing and welcome approach during these uncertain times.