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Out of Context
"This place is like Opryland or something."
—from a male WMCTV Cordova resident who was attending a pre-opening event of an upscale restaurant that had been widely protested in the same suburb, apparently erroneously, for really being a front for a strip club. Got an Out of Context Memphis quote? submit it. We'll give you credit and a link if you specify. Must be verifiable, such as a recording or in print.

Glenn Coleman GGG Gourmet Goodies photo

Glenn Coleman, Director Sales and Marketing, Glenn's Gourmet Goodies, Huntsville, AL, entices visitors to try his white, chipotle and BBQ sauces at his flea market booth in Memphis.
Hustle 'n Dough
at MidSouth Flea Markets
by Benqq

illing to put up with a little dust, holes in the cieling, products sold right out of the shipping carton to get a bargain for some serious Christmas shopping? Try visiting one of several flea markets held at least once a month in the MidSouth.

Our definition of "flea market" requires a physical space, either indoor or out, where sellers and buyers gather at least on a semi-regular basis to do carry out their ancient mercantile roles. (Some retail businesses use the term in their names to imply deals, but true flea marketers would take umbrage at such deceit.)

Regardless, flea markets are now held all over the country and have evolved into a industry with big corporate sponsorships and their own trade organization, the National Flea Market Association (NFMA). According to Mark Blakewood thereof, the number of "flea markets/swap meets" in the US is indeterminate, "but it's safe to say there is in excess of 2500 +." The Texas State Fair, located 2 mile east of downtown Dallas, is the location of reputedly the largest flea market nationally.

Our experience--"your's may be different"--with The Big One attendees who stopped by our "Flag Portraits" exhibit (right) at the Memphis Big One Flea Market revealed most visitors were fishing for deals, as opposed to shopping for something specific, many didn't have email, but many were professionals as well. And cash only generally ruled. That said, we could find no reliably researched demos on any flea markets. (But I bet there's a business school graduate student doing a thesis on it.)

Vendors ranged from those selling jewelry, collectibles, post cards, antiques, food samples, stitched design handbags, belts, pet supplies, commercial resellers and one hobbyist vending old movie DVDs, to name a few. One vendor sold a self-defense product with two heavy hard balls about two inches across attached to a strong cord for slinging, laughingly called "Monkey Ballz" (sic). Judging from the throng around his booth, his exhibit was well visited and is sure to be a hit in flea markets everywhere among the crime conscious city.

And then at the Big One there were the two sellers walking among the paying exhibits trying to deal pups from under their coats, sneakily displayed as if contraband. And they are. In 2008 after pressure from local animal rights activists, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper, the Big One, operated by Buffalo, N.Y. based American Park & Swap, agreed not to allow dog and cat vendors. Big One cooperated fully, but that doesn't stop walk-in sellers sculling among the exhibits with pups.

Other than our themed "Flag Portrait" booth, we saw no artists or creative types, except for a family skillfully hand making ribbons.

Almost all of the flea markets we talked to had a range of around $55-90 booth fee, but the real cost for vendors is the work and time to set up and take down their exhibit. (Some vendors even drove from other states to set up.) On an off day, like the Sunday was at Big One, don't be surprised if you see the manager out front trying to keep vendors from leaving early. That's obviously a sore spot for Big One. Even with the proviso on their rental agreement that "all spaces are to be occupied during rental times," a few vendors were breaking down early on the second of a two day weekend show. No doubt the downpour didn't help, but other vendors said Sundays were usually slower than Saturdays. And, believe me, when the flea market is not working, exhausted vendors are anxious to start packing early and GET OUT.

On the other hand, afternoon hours on the last day of any market is usually the best times pick up deals because vendors want to leave lighter with stock and heavier with cash. Check out the flea markets in your area at least once. Bet you'll be surprised at the variety and discoveries you'll encounter. And, remember, the vendors have spent money and worked hard to be there. So, for that ubiquitous Pete, buy something!

We've made a list with contact info of flea markets within driving space of Memphis.

For hanging in homes and offices, waiting areas, restaurants or hotels--sales or consignment, a 25x37 black framed print of photographer Ben Harrison's "Waiting for Spring." Businesses can also visually brand further by placing this image on their customized art magnets as described in the next paragraph. To see more photo art images that can be made into art magnets, click here for details and pricing


flag portrait
Flag Portraits Larry Michaud, veteran. And while at the flea market we launched our "Flag Portrait" program designed around a huge flag with people posing in front. We felt there was a certain spontaneous posing.

Flea Markets in the MidSouth
(We recommend contacting each to verify if they have the same schedule as shown.)



Jackson, 800 S. Highland,, Peggy Adams, first weekend ea. mo. Free admission and parking.


Airways Mini,
1436 Airways Blvd., 901.323-5505.
Appliances mostly according to the owner.

Cleveland Street, 438 N. Cleveland 8 am to 4pm Weekend (901) 276-3333, Doris, free parking. Every weekend, Fri 10-6, Sat. 9-6, Sun. 12:15-5, indoor, one table free, booth $55. with approx 25 dealers.

Memphis Big One, every third Sat. and Sun. mo. 901.276-3532,, the old Fairgrounds looks to be the largest covered flea market in the MidSouth with the old Youth Building and Pipkin Building but has plenty of outdoor booth space, good parking, armed security that manages entrance to parking area. Good mix of independent sellers and large lot resellers. parking $3 per car.

Memphis International, 4000 Jackson Ave, 901.795-0608,, close parking and space for both outdoor and indoor booths.

Shelby Farms at the Agricenter, 7777 Walnut Grove Rd,, (901) 867-7007, Brian Ellsworth, exhibit sales, first weekend each month.

Shelby Farms sign
Shelby Farms charges a buck for entrance at the gate, but you can park close for free.



First Monday Trade Days, claims to be the oldest running flea market, according to Duane Bullard, PCED (Professional Community and Economic Developer) 50 acres located on State Highway 15 in Ripley, Mississippi. Over 1100 spaces outdoors with electric and cable hookup.


Gigantic Flea Market and Craft Show, 1879 N. Coley Road. Every second Saturday weekend. Friday 5-9pm; Saturday 9am-7pm; Sunday 10am-5pm. Said to have over 800 vendors. Contact or Debbie Griffin (601) 842-4442.


Mid South 7360 Hwy 51 N, 662.342-7348, Pam, 4th weekend of ea. mo., booth fee $75 for 2 days, 7-8 thousand visitors, about 175 vendors



Forty Nine Street, 2302 SW Dr. 870.932-4538, collectibles and antiques, about 30 vendors.

Have we left some out that you know about? Let us know here and we'll add them to our this issue's Web page.