Flea market celebrates 1st birthday 1,100 customers visit each weekend day


A satin wedding dress, statuettes made from pecan flour paste and polyester resin, herbal cigarettes imported from India, an S-cup bra -- they are all available at the Randallstown Flea Market, which features more than fake plants, cheap clothes and used kitchen goods.

The flea market was opened at 8514 Liberty Road to fill a void left when the Edmondson Drive-In flea market closed nearly four years ago. Manager Malcolm M. McKnight said it draws about 1,100 customers each weekend day and celebrates its first anniversary this month.

It also celebrates the unique and unusual. There are booths where merchants sell anything from Negro Baseball League memorabilia and stereos not picked up from a pawn shop to health foods and unusual spices. In the back there is a minirestaurant, and a carpeted room where shoppers' children can watch videos. In the center of the room are tables where people sell used goods such as toasters, answering machines, records, and books.

But the real novelties are apt to be found on a walk down one corridor of the two-acre indoor flea market. There's Irresistible Creations, for instance, run by Darlene T. Smith, who also operates a Finksburg dress shop.

At the flea market, open all day Saturdays and Sundays, she sells wedding gowns and prom dresses that hang on poles lining the peg-board walls of her narrow booth.

She said customers are initially surprised that the dresses -- which are unused and come from close-out and sample sales -- are so cheap. A satin designer wedding dress with a small train costs $150; prom dresses are about $50.

"Once they get past the concept of flea market then they really see, 'Yes, this is a good buy, these are new dresses, and I'm getting a good deal.' "

While some are looking for deals, others simply need products they cannot get elsewhere, and that's where Patricia Johnson-Plato comes in. She works as a critical-care nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital part time during the week and sells specialized bras on the weekends.

Her selection includes bras for women who have had a mastectomy or open heart surgery and need a well-fitted bra that won't irritate surgical incisions and can mask the absence of breast tissue.

She also has bras for those she describes as "buxom." Pulling out an S-cup bra, she said, "If there's anyone who's larger than that it can be made."

But not everyone at the flea market is totally satisfied.

Belinda Young, a customer who bought a candy dish for $5, said that while prices at the flea market are good, selection and quality have gone down. And Umoja Kumba, who makes and repairs leather goods in another booth, says that since he began trading there last month, he has barely made enough money to cover the cost of renting a booth -- about $75 for the weekend.

But he said he doesn't mind. "It's like building a business. You have to stick in there."

He made a friend in musician Johnie Elijah Williams, who sells handbags and jewelry picked up in New York. He brings his own table and sets up on the flea market parking lot for a nominal daily fee.

He prefers selling from outside because he can catch customers before they go in. On a recent Saturday, he noticed by about 3 p.m. that his strategy didn't seem to work. But he remained optimistic.

"I really get bored, but I'm going to stay till it's over," he said.

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