Sam James has been a weekend warrior for four years.  Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you can find him at the Village Flea Market on South Meridian selling his unique embroidered towels and Masonic items.  A retiree, he started selling his items at the flea market as way to keep busy and to bring in a few dollars.  James, like other vendors we spoke to, is putting more than a little change in his pockets, enjoying being his own boss and all with just a minimum investment and overhead cost. 

“What’s good about it,” recanted Kellen Clark, “I get to be my own boss.”  That seemed to be a big motivator a number of the vendors plus, it’s yours.  “You’re doing it for yourself, not for someone else,” we heard from more than one vendor.  . 

Clark and friend Cornell Ross opened Mr. C’s, an affordable yet very stylish clothing boutique for both men and women, earlier this year.  This isn’t Clark’s first time as a vendor.   He tried it once when he was unemployed, but that didn’t work out so well.  Instead of investing a percentage of his income on restocking his inventory, he was using the money to live on.  That approach doesn’t work.  This time, his flea market money is extra income.

Their vendor income wasn’t the only source of income for many of the vendors.   Some of them have retirement or disability income, while others work full- or part-time jobs.    Still another group of shrewd entrepreneurs use their flea market booth as a base for expanded out reach.  For example, James sales his embroidered products, especially his baby burp towels, online at  Rob Lounds bases his business, One Stop Shop, out of the flea market.  His flea market income is primarily from his custom designed and printed t-shirts.  However, he is also a talented graphic artists and uses his booth as a store front for his specialty design and print services that includes banners, business cards and vinyl decals, just to name a few. 

Why the flea market, versus a traditional store front?  The startup cost is low, you don’t have to pay for utilities or security, and there’s a 40 years history that provides a steady supply of foot traffic. However, operating in a flea market isn’t an excuse to be less than professional.   Vendors who have the most success follow the basics for any successful business; providing a good product, presenting it and yourself well, and providing good customer service. 

Practicing these and other principals of good business are what’s made Kevin Jackson one of the more successful vendors at the Village Flea Market.  A young thirty something, he’s operated a successful booth at the flea market for the past 10 years.  Over the years, the products he sells at his business Electronic Solutions, has changed.  When he first started, he sold mostly phones, but now he offers a cross section of products including tablets and other smaller priced electronics.  His rule is to keep up with trends.    

“If it’s not hot, we stop selling it,” says Jackson. 

In addition, when you walk up to his booth, you can tell he means businesses.  His products are neat and attractively displayed and his permanent glass enclosed display counters tell you, he didn’t just get there yesterday. 

“The appearance of your shop and of yourself matters.  You can’t just throw up a table and look like you’re going to be gone next week,” Jackson says.   

That’s especially true for people buying electronic products, Jackson says.  “They want to believe that you’ll be here if they have a problem with their product.  You have to warranty your product, stand behind it.  It’s also about customer service and just doing the right thing.”

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