VOL. 118 | NO. 5 | Thursday, January 8, 2004
Hunt will go on for entrepreneurs, bargain hunters
Flea Market Prepares for Post-Fire Event
The show goes on for entrepreneurs, bargain hunters
The Daily News
For more than 30 years, thousands of entrepreneurs have
peddled their wares to throngs of devoted bargain hunters at the monthly flea
market held at the Mid-South Fairgrounds.
Thus, not even the fiery demise last month of a building
containing vendor merchandise will impede The Big Ones future.
Randa Kahn, general manager of American Park N Swap a
company contracted by the city of Memphis and the fairgrounds since 1980 to
organize and operate the markets called the loss of the 81-year-old Shelby
County Building Dec. 20 unbelievable.
Regrouping. Support and enthusiasm continues to be
expressed by vendors, she said. Meanwhile, organizers are exploring ways to
help compensate for lost merchandise.
The Big One will relocate vendors who would have set up shop
in the Shelby County Building to the Mid-South Coliseum, and the next flea
market will proceed as scheduled Jan. 17-18. A shuttle will transport customers
to and from the coliseum and the Pipkin, Youth and Agriculture buildings, which
are also used during the events.
As far as the fire goes, we will get through this together
and hopefully come out of it even stronger, Kahn said.
Browsing bonanza. East Memphis resident Leslie
Andrews has visited The Big One at the fairgrounds two or three times each year
since buying a small desk for her home at the event about three years ago.
Though she hasnt bought anything as substantial as a piece of furniture since,
she said the hunt for bargains is a rewarding challenge.
I have bought a few things for around the house, like a set
of bowls and some decorative pictures of food for my kitchen, Andrews said. I
dont always buy something, but I usually find things I consider buying.
There is no admission fee for the flea market, but parking
Andrews said the market is fun to visit because its a
different way of shopping, and you dont feel pressured like you often can in
Kahn said an increased number of department stores in the mainstream
marketplace has ensured the success of flea markets everywhere.
You just dont see the unique stuff you see at a flea
market in a department store, she said. That makes flea markets a stronger
Traveling business. Kahn described The Big One as an
We see people on a regular basis. For many of the vendors,
Memphis is part of their circuit, she said, pointing to repeat vendors from 11
The third weekend of every month except December, when
its held twice The Big One hosts about 200 vendors who sell items big and
small, cheap and expensive to an average of 20,000 bargain hunters.
Average cost to rent an indoor booth is about $70.
Its a wonderful opportunity for someone who wants to own
his or her own business, Kahn said. Theres not much overhead and you get to
present your product to thousands of customers over a two-day weekend.
Memphians David and Lynda Weaver, owners of Antiques and
Estate Jewelry, set up shop at flea markets year-round, one as far away as
Iowa. Lynda Weaver said she has sold goods at flea markets for 25 years, but
has been attending them even longer.
I was raised by a family of pack rats and have been going
to flea markets from the time I could walk, she said. Its still fun.
Weaver said it took a little less than a year for her booth
at The Big One to become lucrative.
Repeat customers. Vendors have become increasingly
dependent upon repeat customers for profits, Weaver said, adding that the
product mix at markets has changed over the years.
There are fewer antiques, but theres a lot of duplication
of other merchandise, she said. And the crowd has changed. You still have the
hard-core, old-time antique buyers, but not as many. Now its more amusement
for customers, while formerly it was a treasure hunt.
Kahn said the markets sustain solid traffic throughout the
year, but are busiest during the fall. Weaver added that her booths do the most
business from October to Christmas. Visual impact. Vicki Breaux, owner
of Childrens Wearhouse in Adamsville, Tenn., said profits often depend on the
amount of effort a vendor is willing to put into displaying merchandise, adding
that competition from other vendors can be fierce.
Its definitely hard work and a challenge to set it up,
she said. You have to bring the public to you.
Kahn said vendors tend to be street smart, and they pay
attention to trends.
They are savvy and their products are mixed with changes,
she said. They keep things exciting and keep up with the changes in customers
Future growth. Kahn said the future of the flea
market appears solid, and its organizers hope for growth.
Right now, were looking at options for additional space
here at the fairgrounds, she said.