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New flea market a family affair in Statesboro
072608 BIZ FLEA MARKET 1Web
Chris Harvey, right, samples some scents at Saturday's flea Market with his African Gray parrot "Nelson" perched on his shoulder while wife Serena and daughter Sierra, 5, chat with booth owner Laurie Mingle of Sylvania, who sells scented rocks and accessories. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

            Three months ago, local real estate developers Jerry and Craig Jennings gave many local residents what they were clamoring for – a flea market. Located in a warehouse on Highway 301 North between Zetterower Avenue and Packinghouse Road, the Statesboro Flea Market attracts more than 100 vendors and scores of shoppers each weekend.

            "My husband Craig and his father Jerry felt the time was right to open a flea market," Julie Jennings said. "They owned a warehouse that had been leased for storage. When they no longer had a tenant, they decided to convert it to a flea market. It opened this past April."

            Julie Jennings said it is a family operation, and on any given weekend, you may find many members of the Jennings' clan pitching in and helping around the facility.

            "I was a stay-at-home mom until we opened the flea market," she said. "I have been pressed into service as its first manager, but you may find my husband in the restaurant, or really anywhere in market. We are all helping to make sure that everything is done as it should be."

            Jennings said there are currently 200 open booths available with electricity and 10 closed booths available with electricity and air. She said there is enough space in the three-acre enclosed building to add another 400 booths when needed.

            "We also offer wonderful, affordable food at our Horsing Around Café," she said. "We are constantly getting compliments on our Horsing Around burger and our Flea Filler hot dogs."

            The market is open all day Friday and Saturday, in the afternoon on Sunday, and the booths are rented on a daily or weekend basis. For as little as $10, an aspiring merchant can display his or her wares for sale in one of the market's booths.

            "I have been here selling fashion sunglasses here since the first day it opened," said Kirby Freeman, a flea market vendor. "I think it is a great opportunity to make some money. You don't sign a long term lease, and the rent for the space is very reasonable. You can actually rent a booth for one day, if that is what you want to do."

            Dee Dee Steele said the flea market has given her the opportunity to have her own storefront of sorts instead of trying to sell her merchandise on Ebay.

            "I sell baby and children's clothing and accessories," Steele said. "I used to sell everything on Ebay, but the fees were so high. I heard about the flea market opening from my husband. As soon as I heard, I called them to reserve a booth. I have done better than I could ever have imagined."

            The market has regular vendors selling such merchandise as camouflage, hand crafted knives and walking sticks, antiques, electronics, appliances, puppies, and even birds. Julia Joyner is affectionately referred to as the "bird lady".

            "I used to have an aviary in my home," Joyner said. "I read about the market in the paper. I was the fifth person to put in to come and be a vendor here. This is a new and up and coming facility. I have been here since it opened, and have done a great business."

            Jennings said that when you drive by the market it is hard to tell from a cursory glance just how big the facility is.

            "The warehouse itself is enormous," she said. "But, most people don't realize just how much parking is behind the building itself. We are able to handle a tremendous number of cars."

            Jennings employs people on the weekends to direct traffic in and out of the facility's parking area. From vendors setting up to customers pouring in, Jennings said the market has a certain ebb and flow that has to be orchestrated.

            "The vendors have to be unloaded by nine o'clock and their vehicles out of the building," she said. "With over 100 vendors, it can be very hectic, but it is kind of like a dance, and I think we have it down now."

            A grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 2. "We are offering free booth rental for that Saturday," Jennings said.

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