Flea market offers inexpensive venue for sellers

Hard times are making it difficult for new businesses to become established. Recognizing that, Dan O'Donnell has brought back the...

By Ryan Wynne

It’s a tough time to start a business. Getting loans isn’t easy, which makes getting a storefront difficult and scary. So for many, the option to rent a booth to sell goods is appealing.

Up until a few weeks ago, Jordan Murari and Adam Scholtz did just that. For approximately two months, the two sold mostly video game-related electronics at O’Donnell’s Bellingham Flea Market in the Bellingham Public Market building at 1522 Cornwall Ave.

The venture proved successful. Murari said traffic to their section of the market was high and they had to move into bigger spaces every couple of weeks.

“That’s what really convinced us that we would be able to support a store,” Murari said.

And they did. Their new store, Jordan’s Electronics, is located at 655 Front St. Suite 4 in Lynden.

Flea market owner Dan O’Donnell said he originally got the itch to establish the market because he wanted to provide an inexpensive venue for residents to sell their wares without the commitment of a lease. This is especially important right now, he said, because people are hesitant to sign commercial leases due to fears about the economy.

Vendors can rent space at the market for $26 per booth per day without committing to more than one day at a time.

Sharon Taylor, who has been vending at the flea market since right around the time it opened, said the market allowed her to become her own boss. She started looking for work on March 31, when she had to leave her old position at an import company. After searching for a couple of months, Taylor still hadn’t found a job. At one point in her search, she stumbled upon an ad for the flea market and thought, “I can’t find a job, so I’m making one.”

Taylor said selling random items at an indoor flea market wasn’t something she had ever envisioned herself doing before leaving the import company. But when she was jobless and really started taking a look at all the stuff around her house, everything fell into place.

“I love it,” Taylor said about selling at the market. “I get to meet some really fabulous people. I have customers that will buy any trinket just to stop and say ‘Hello.’”

It’s not just the customers that make the flea market environment feel good. Taylor said the other vendors, along with O’Donnell and Dee Dee Swartz, the market manager, have become a sort of family for her.

“I’ve even adopted a couple of them,” Taylor said. “There’s one couple in particular that calls me mom and calls my husband dad.”

Taylor also likes the variety of goods at the flea market.

“You can’t just walk into a grocery store and find unique things,” Taylor said. “You can do that here.”

She sells everything from books and DVDs to apple ring boxes and antiques, some from England and Germany.

“Of course I have egg cups and you don’t see those everyday,” Taylor said, then explained that the cups are meant to hold hard boiled eggs while they are cracked for consumption.

Business is somewhat slow, but Taylor said it is picking up and that she expects it to grow further in the fall when the weather nudges people inside.

Swartz, market manager, said the number of vendors there is growing. O’Donnell’s grand opening was May 15, and approximately 20 vendors sold goods there for the first few of weekends. Now, between 30 and 50 show up every weekend, she said, and there’s room for more. About 72 booths can set up inside and 30 outside, and Swartz thinks those vacancy will decrease soon.

With the sunshine pulling people into the woods and onto the bay in the summertime, not to mention the farmers market, Swartz said there is a lot of competition this time of year. However, she expects vendors and customers will become more interested in the year-round, indoor venue once the sun becomes more scarce and the rain starts flowing.

In addition to providing an inexpensive space for vendors, Swartz said the flea market was also established to serve as a gathering place for residents. To draw customers and build community spirit,  the market’s doors have been opened to artists during the Downtown Art Walk and it has been the site of special events, such as a children’s weekend and car show. Swartz said they also want to have musicians there on a regular basis.

“The whole spirit of this thing is to pull the community together,” she said.

The market is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information visit bellinghamfleamarket.wordpress.com or call (360) 220-7157.

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