Thursday, December 09, 2010

Good-bye to the flea market

I see a long standing St. John's tradition is up and dying with this Christmas season - The Avalon Mall Flea Market. I'm surprised it's taken this long for the powers-that-be to finally kill it.

The flea market has operated out of the Avalon Mall since the late 80s. At first it was just a simple flea market, a place to sell junk during a Sunday afternoon when the mall was closed. But then things began to evolve and escalate. Sunday shopping was brought in so the hours the flea market operated switched from the mornings and afternoon to the evening. And then vendors began to get grumpy over the flea market. First it was the tables obviously selling stolen goods. The people who ran the market did their best to enforce things, but you could see people selling stuff they stole from some of the stores in the mall on a Saturday at the market on a Sunday.

Yeah, they were that brazen. I did a series of stories when I was with the Express about the amount of stolen merchandise running through local flea markets. Actually shut one down in Mount Pearl which was terrible for selling stuff robbed from drug stores (cologne, razor blades, deodorant) and DVDs. The Avalon Mall was never as bad as that one, but there was an element to it. And it got tarnished by association.

I think the final death blow came from stores operating in the mall growing weary of having people come in and compete with them for business and paying a few bucks for a table while they were paying thousands in rent. I imagine HMV and the other movie store were never happy to see tables selling recently released DVDs at 50% what they were selling them for. I know that the framing business in the mall forced Cathy's parents out a couple of years ago (although if you get your framing done from a store in the mall, you're mad. The mark-up is insane).

I suspect that's it for a flea market of this scope. Some mentioned the Village, but I understand they've already rejected it. Besides, part of the appeal of this flea market was the ability to wander around a bit before or after catching a movie. Where ever they go next won't have that. It's too bad, really. It was a nice little community, it was mostly harmless and you could occasionally find some fun things buried in there among the rubble. That's the fun of a good flea market.

I have my own memories of the flea market. For a few years after I left MUN, but before I moved to Clarenville I was a semi-regular at the flea market. It's been noted that I have quite a decent comic book collection. I used to take bit and pieces of it into the mall to sell. Let's just say the post-university years were a bit hard on the pockebook and I needed to make money any way I could.

Also, I was a bit of a merc. It's a term that a few of us who sold comics at the mall used. Because we were hardcore collectors we knew immediately if a comic was worth something or was junk. But not everybody has that skill. It wasn't so much that we took advantage of people who brought their comics into the mall to sell to us...we took advantage of local used bookstores. Several around town sold used comics that they'd dump on shelves or bins. People would come in and sell them to the bookstore for a dime, they would sell them for 50 cents.

So me a few others would hit these stores, often daily, waiting to see if someone was dumb enough to dump something valuable in there. You'd be astonished how often it happened. For the bookstores, they were quite happy to make five times profit off a comic. However, I routinely grabbed comics on a Thursday for 50 cents and sold them at the flea market for $10. I know I sold books there for $50 or more that I bought for a couple of quarters.

On a good day at the flea market I could walk home with $300-$400. And back then, it was money I desperately needed. It kept me going until I could figure out the next step in my life.

So I'll miss the Avalon Mall Flea Market. It was an institution in St. John's for many years and it did all right by me.

Last Five
1. I'll be back - The Beatles
2. Last chance - Maroon 5
3. Wait for love - Josh Ritter
4. First night - The Hold Steady*
5. Magpie to the morning - Neko Case

1 comment:

Simon Lono said...

The flea market closure is also a sign of how tight the local property market has become. For example, Easter Seals had to cancel their Haunted House this year because they couldn't find a location.

If you are not paying top dollar for space then you simply can't find any.