Another's treasure on weekends

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:31

    MATAMORAS - Through all of the development and changes in the area, the Matamoras flea market has remained the same for nearly three decades - at least this was the case up until last weekend. The flea market, which used to be located next to the old drive-in theatre, which is now Price Chopper, has been home to eclectic items, unique merchandise, curious customers, and a real sense of family amidst the frequent vendors. Every weekend during spring, summer, and fall, vendors have gathered from early morning hours to mid-afternoon. And every weekend, they were met by community members, people who were traveling by, those returning from church services, and regulars who were always in search of a good deal. Marge Tonkin, who started the flea market in the late 70’s, said vendors would come from far away places such as Allentown and Yonkers. “We have had a great group of vendors,” she said. The flea market averaged about 75 vendors on Sundays, which are notoriously their best day. The customers were mostly locals in the beginning, she said, but soon people from surrounding areas began to come, some “to find a treasure,” according to Tonkin. “The most amazing thing,” Tonkin said, “is how people will buy other people’s junk.” She also shared an anecdote about how the vendors bought and sold items amongst themselves, telling of a single watch that changed hands six times in the flea market over the course of a single season. The flea market brought people to Matamoras as “a destination; they came to go to the flea market.” Three years ago, the Matamoras Fire Department attempted to start a competing flea market in Airport Park, as a fundraiser. But this venture proved to be unsuccessful, while Matamoras flea market with its seasoned vendors thrived. When the drive-in theatre was sold to make room for Price Chopper, the flea market moved from one side of the property to the other. That transition was not welcomed by the vendors, who did not embrace change easily. An attempt to move a large portion of the flea market to Airport Park seemed a near impossible task. Until last weekend, when the owners of the flea market closed on a deal to sell the property to Phantom Fireworks, and the vendors were forced to make their transition down the avenue to Airport Park - the farthest they’ve moved in over a quarter-century. Surprisingly, the transition was welcomed by the majority of the vendors. Jerry Faske is one such vendor. He has been selling his merchandise for thirteen years now. “Honestly, I like it. It’s a pleasant change,” Faske stated. “It’s hard to tell on the first day, but it has potential.” Faske commented that the new area in Airport Park is wide open and better for people to walk around. “They have to advertise a little, but I think it will be alright,” he said. Perhaps Faske is one of the more optimistic vendors. Other vendors are concerned about retaining the volume they had at the old place. Mary Conklin, a three-year vendor, was a bit skeptical, but did comment that the people seemed friendlier. The flea market will continue at Airport Park on the weekends with a table charge of $10 on Saturday and $15 on Sunday. Jerry Faske and many others hope it will stay like this for another thirty years.