RICKREALL — Deb Thomas likes to slightly exaggerate that the Polk Flea Market is the only one open between Los Angeles and Canadian border.
As the manager since 2000, she’s seen other venues close their doors for good and others that haven’t reopened yet due to the pandemic.
“Portland antique expo isn’t running, it’s shot, shut down, and won’t be doing it for the foreseeable future,” Thomas said.
With closures of markets in Salem and Eugene, Thomas said the event at the Polk County Fairgrounds has become a regional destination.
And when the facility opens this weekend, it will be the first time since the wildfires last year that all three buildings will host vendors and shoppers. Thomas said last September a beam came through the ceiling of the main building, which will now be known on the fairgrounds as Building A going forward. Repairs to the building began in December, which had to include asbestos mitigation, and were completed two weeks ago.
Thomas said the Polk Flea Market has actually been up and running since last July.
“We did really good, splitting between Building B, the Arts and Crafts building, and Building C, the metal building, limiting the people we could have with COVID restrictions. We were never over limits for people, having split them up really good. Had it been in just in the main building, people would have to wait to get in.”
Thomas said the flea market usually attracts about 80 to 100 vendors. But this weekend, due to the extra demand created by all the other closures, expects 120 to 150 vendors spread out in the three buildings. Bargain hunters can expect to find jewelry, Avon products, dolls, glass ware, hunting and fishing gear, gaming and technology tables, car stuff and guy stuff.
“Basically, everything under the sun,” she added.
And with Polk County moved into the moderate risk level last week, Thomas said the facilities are allowed to accommodate more shoppers than before. She said the interesting fallout of the pandemic was the demographic of shoppers changed. While the older, regular customers stayed home to remain safe, the market attracted a younger bargain hunter. And now that the risk levels are going down, the regulars are returning.
“We still get those people, ‘Ah! You’re running a flea market?’ I tell them we’re a business, like Walmart, like Costco. We’re under business retail rules. We change things in the layout. You still have to wear masks. We’ve had no problems with COVID,” Thomas said.
She added she’s excited to renegotiate the Polk Flea Market’s three-year contract.
“The Polk County Commissioners, Fair Board of Directors and fair ground management have been so supportive during COVID, so pro-business, that without their support, the flea market would not have existed,” Thomas said. “I cannot stress how supportive they’ve been.”
The market runs the first Sunday of the month throughout the year, except for August when it gives way for the Polk County Fair.
Polk Flea Market
Where: Polk County Fairgrounds, 520 South Pacific Highway West
When: Sunday, April 4, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission: $1; Early Admission $5: 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 6 to 9 a.m. Sunday
Of note: Facial coverings are required. Complete the Passport — getting a stamp in all three buildings — for a chance to win drawing for the $25 Flea Market Bucks gift certificate.