Flea markets continuing to expand shopping options with some restrictions relaxed

Multiple events this weekend have highlighted the expansion of flea market shopping as COVID-19 restrictions and limits are relaxed around the state.

The Barn-N-Bunk Flea Market in Trenton is throwing the Spring Craft & Vendor Show, featuring spring crafts, flowers, Mother’s Day gifts, live country music, a petting zoo and pony rides today. In Hamilton, the Hamilton Flea at Marcum Park will feature local, hand-crafted goods and food trucks.

Larger facilities like Trader’s World in Monroe, which has 850 indoor vendor spaces and 400 outdoor spaces spread over 11 acres, are also continuing to adjust. When COVID-19 hit, Trader’s World shut down for two months, then reopened with precautions.

“We complied with everything the government wanted,” said owner Jay Frick III. “We asked people to wear masks. We offer masks. I walk around with a mask pack. We have blue arrows on the floor directing people, stickers for six feet, there’s 25 hand sanitizing stations, so if people touch something, there’s a handy place to clean upt.”

Frick said he was fortunate to be able to pay his employees even during the lockdown.

“We paid them as if nothing happened during those nine weeks,” he said. “We didn’t want them to go through the process of unemployment, so we just mailed them a check every week. We wanted them back here with us (when the lockdown was over), and not going somewhere else. We couldn’t reimburse the vendors, of course.”

Nevertheless, Frick said most, but not all, of the vendors have returned.

“Some have an elderly parent at home they’re taking care of,” he said. “And they don’t want to put them at risk. We found out when we were closed how much vendors and shoppers missed this place. I was getting 300 calls a day.”

When asked about the most popularly trafficked items, Frick cited jewelry, wallets, accessories, collectible toys and video games, customized cornhole sets, small appliances, recycled furniture. There are other unique items and features as well.

“We have a guy who repairs sweepers,” he said. “We have a military veteran who served in Afghanistan who makes these wooden flags. He has a lot of stories and I think its therapeutic for him. People put the flags in their yards.”

All in all, Frick said shopping at Trader’s World is very different from shopping at Target or Best Buy.

“It’s a throwback in time,” he said “When you go to a big-box store, it’s hard to find anyone to help you. Or if you do, they just started last week and don’t know any more than you do. Our vendors love what they do, they love to talk about what they have. Customers are often on an adventure to find a treasure, something their dad or grandpa had, and they’re treated like royalty.”

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