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A New Reno Indoor Market – Minus the “Flea”

You’re already going to have to excuse me for getting a little QRA up in here for a moment, however, one QRA would seem to deserve another!

I was forwarded a link through Craigslist about a new Reno indoor “Flea Market,” with approximately 85,000 square feet of space, 300 vendors and room for entertainment and food.  At first, I was was excited, and said, “…holy crap, another place besides the El Rancho location!”

I’m a total flea market/garage sale/thrift store kind of guy.  Love ’em.  My mother introduced me to them at a young age, and while I didn’t appreciate them then, with times being as tough as they are, I sure like them now.

I’ve seen treasures, and I’ve seen trash.   I’ve had days walking around the El Rancho flea market where I’ve been sun-baked, loaded with $2 stuff that’ll probably get used one day, and I’ve crawled through expensive chain thrift stores scoffing at prices for used items that are double than new.  I’ve haggled with toothless old weirdos and sweaty Hispanic peddlers.  It’s all part of the game in this culture, seedy, entertaining, cheap, and an adventure to who KNOWS what you’ll find.  I love it.

I suppose I was a bit offended when I learned this new indoor “flea” market was only open to vendors of new wares.   According to their website, auto parts, perfumes, toys, knives, watches and clocks are among the list of what they hope will be offered.   I’ll explain below why I think this sucks.

The El Rancho Flea Market and Swap Meet is what it is.  Compared to other flea markets, sure it is small, largely Hispanic in nature, but I’ve always had a GREAT time coursing through there.  I’ve found some awesome crap to buy on a good day, and nothing is better than sifting through someone’s stuff on a nice morning.  The idea of an indoor flea market is very cool too, because sometimes the weather in Reno gets a little harrowing to deal with– too hot or too cold sometimes, and that’s just the way it is.   The El Rancho also has “new things” vendors, none of which I am interested in.  Cheap, plastic chrome car garbage, knock-off perfumes, Pakistani knives for $5 that aren’t fit to cut a warm stick of butter, watches made in Singapore that may as well be in a coin vending machine inside a plastic egg, cookware that might have holes in it, battery-operated or inflatable brand-knock-off  toys to shut up the brats… it’s all there, already.   Close to the port of Oakland, this stuff comes here cheap and in abundance.

Not everyone is interested in this stuff, let alone, to sell it.   People who sell this stuff are business people first (which is fine), and usually aren’t the same kind of people that sell the “garage sale type merchandise” (which is also fine).  Garage sale folk, junk peddlers, these are MY kind of people.   They’re grandparents, travelers, dumpster divers, the occasional spring cleaner, you name it.   It makes me wonder why they’re being crossed out of a whole market.  Are the organizers attempting some gentrified, clean market?  One might think so, considering the $670 per 10′ x 10′ square they’re asking, and a two-month lease with month-to-month rent thereafter.  That’s expensive!  These are going to be high-class, long-haulers, or perhaps, so the organizers hope.  The location (probably a warehouse) is still a mystery to me, and that will only further how right or wrong I may be about it…

…what will happen, likely, and here is my QRA, is this won’t do so well.  When the market isn’t a sanitized, bustling local “TJ Maxx,” “Ross,” or “Pier 1,” I predict a large “dollar store” bazaar, one in which you’ll see the same cheap garbage over and over again, by the same people.   Waiting to unload their truckload of whatever it is they bought, to then go buy another truckload.  Initially, they’ll probably do somewhat well, and then as sales dwindle (Reno being the size it is, won’t keep coming back like addicts to “new” trash) and this thing will fail, or they’ll have to re-evaluate their haughty “…we don’t DO garage sale stuff…”  attitude.

There’s a LOT of out-of-work, poor and bored people out there.  I fit in there somewhere.  Flea markets are a WONDERFUL capitalist venture for even the poorest, but willing to do the work.  They’re inventive, genius folk if there ever were any, just trial and error sometimes to see what people will buy.  There’s people that like to buy and resell items they find.  Sometimes it’s obsessive collectors.   It may seem trashy to some, maybe even the indoor “flea” market people, but this is Reno:  we’re small, we’re punchy, we’re full of potential, and we don’t have deep pockets or lots of people.

I’m not trying to be a wet blanket here, but Reno attracts this “declarative” attitude far too often.  “We’re THIS… not THIS.”   Limiting itself before it even gets out of the gate.  Happens all the time–I’m even sort-of doing it now.  Downtown is also evident of this fact.  People and populace determine what Reno is or is not, not marketers or planners.  That’s why Reno doesn’t always do so hot to people’s grand dreams.  Reno could capitalize on flexibility, if it embraced some of it!

I wish the indoor “flea” market people well and lots of luck:  we’ll see who is right in the end.  I’d much rather it be them than me!