The Reading Terminal Market is housed in a space beneath a former train shed in Philadelphia’s Center City. The market, which comprises close to 80 small businesses, is a staple for locals and out-of-towners alike. More than seven million visitors pass through each year.
The long-standing market is filled with multi-generational family businesses and local entrepreneurs. It tries to field a merchant mix that reflects Philadelphia’s diversity. It’s also one of the biggest sites for redemption of SNAP benefits in Pennsylvania and provides educational opportunities for low-income Philadelphia youth, including after-school and summer programs.
The Market, which has operated continuously since 1893, has, like many businesses, been flipped upside down since the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year. COVID-19 has canceled most events at the Pennsylvania Convention Center next door and tourism has dramatically decreased.
Throughout the pandemic, the Market has remained open. Many vendors have tried their best, offering curbside pickup/delivery. However, this has not been sustainable for the Market itself or its vendors.
The dire business climate sparked the 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that runs the market to appeal for donations. Two weeks ago, it launched a GoFundMe to raise $250,000 in an effort to “keep the lights on.”
According to their GoFundMe, about 30% of the Market’s foot traffic comes from tourists. For example, take the Terminal’s staple Ice cream store, Bassetts Ice Cream. More than 90 percent of their sales are to first-time customers, many of them out-of-towners.
Reading Terminal owes most of its current financial health to tourists and convention-goers. Also, the lucrative evening events that the market once hosted have all been postponed into next year.
The crowdfunding campaign got the attention of Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy, a company that recently launched a sports betting app in Philadelphia.
On Oct. 22, Portnoy, tweeted about his plan to help save the Reading Terminal Market after realizing that the 128-year-old market and its vendors had been hit hard by the loss of tourism because of the coronavirus.
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) October 22, 2020
On the same day, Penn National Gaming, partners of Barstool Sports, also announced their intentions to help sustain operations and support the recovery of the Market.
“For those making a first-time deposit of $100-plus into an account on the recently launched Barstool Sportsbook app, Penn National will match the deposit with a $100 donation to the Reading Terminal Market until it hits its GoFundMe goal of $250K,” according to a Penn National statement. The company expected to collect most of the money by the end of the Eagles-Giants game Thursday night.
Back in February, Penn National Gaming entered into a strategic partnership with Barstool Sports, whereby Barstool is exclusively promoting the company’s land-based and online casinos and sports betting products, including the Barstool Sportsbook mobile app, to its national audience.
In addition to the betting app, the Barstool brand will be featured on all Penn National mobile platforms and brick-and-mortar sportsbook locations throughout the country. Sports betting is legal in Pennsylvania, Penn National’s headquarters is located near Philadelphia.
Penn National valued Barstool at $450 million. The regional casino operator bought a 36% stake in Barstool for $163 million in cash and stock, according to the Wall Street Journal. Three years later, the company will pay an additional $62 million to increase its stake to 50%. At that point, Penn National would be able to buy controlling ownership.
Due to the generosity of Portnoy, Penn National, gamblers and many other local enthusiasts, the GoFundMe’s goal was hit the very same night. It should be noted that Portnoy also individually donated $50K.
“We are proud to support this historic institution, one of America’s largest and oldest public markets,” said Jay Snowden, President and CEO of Penn National Gaming. “When Dave Portnoy first suggested the idea, we jumped at the chance to work together to help save this beloved icon in the heart of Philadelphia.”