Boxes of Hamburger Helper, vintage Christmas ornaments, new and used books, hundreds of Hot Wheels cars, shiny garland.
The Southside Flea Market, inside the old Cheton’s furniture, is a festive, orderly hoarder’s paradise this time of year.
The Arlington Road flea market, boasting about 40 vendors, is celebrating its fourth holiday season.
Other area flea markets have closed in the past few years, and Southside is now the only “true” flea market in the immediate Akron area, said co-owner Jennie Morrison.
“We’re not a consignment store,” Morrison said. “At a true flea market the vendors themselves have to be there to make a deal with the customer.”
Morrison notes that the Hartville Flea Market, a large outdoor market, and the indoor Hartville Marketplace are over the county line, in Stark County’s Lake Township.
Southside Flea Market, at 2262 South Arlington in the well-worn Cheton’s shopping plaza, is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and is closed Christmas Day. Typically it is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
This week, the market opened a day early, Thursday, to attract holiday shoppers.
Lucy Hackett of Stow was shopping for presents and Christmas decorations with her two stepsons, Silas, 12, and Josiah, 13.
“We came here because we knew we’d find unique things,” she said as she picked through vintage ornaments at vendor Ruth Wine’s booth.
Vendors pay $50 a weekend for a 10-by-10 foot space in the 17,000-square-foot market. (The merchants must commit to four weeks at a time; some rent more than one space.)
Vendors include merchants selling new and used toys and electronics, new and nearly new purses, used household items and knickknacks, as well as handmade items, including soap, incense and quilted wall hangings.
The market also is home to a small eating area, where shoppers can grab eggs and toast in the morning and a hot dog or hamburger in the afternoon. Morrison’s granddaughter, Courtney Morrison, works in the kitchen.
Nearby is part of Morrison’s collection of colorful electric miniature carousels. They’re not for sale.
Tucked in the back of the market is vendor Neal Taylor, who operates The Corner Grocery.
It’s stocked with nonperishable food, as well as toiletries that Taylor has bought on the cheap, using coupons.
“I don’t like the term extreme couponing,” Taylor said. “I prefer smart shopping. Extreme sounds radical. I don’t consider this radical.”
Taylor’s space is far from a full-line grocery, with the inventory dependent on coupons Taylor has found online or in newspapers.
This week, his inventory included 64-ounce bottles of V8 Splash drink for $1.50, Hamburger Helper for $1, and a 6.4-ounce Colgate toothpaste for $1.
Taylor is not retired, unlike many of the vendors. He pieces together a living operating the store, delivering pizzas and working as a maintenance/technical director for a nightclub.
Vendor Rob Logan, 35, also has turned his sales area into an inviting mini-store, filling shelves with his Ecco Lights hand-painted glassware and dozens of scents of handmade candles.
Logan makes the candles and partner Troy Miller, a mail handler for the U.S. Postal Service, paints the glassware, adorning it with flowers, fruit and even tattoo designs.
Two wineglasses — with a purple and pink design that looked like dripped wax — were priced at $12.
“We really do price the items low because of the bad economy,” Logan said, echoing other vendors.
Across from Logan’s shop is the “Bag Lady” — Barbara Shaffer of Akron’s Firestone Park. She sells a hodgepodge of goods — purses she gets from family members, picks up at yard sales and buys on sale, as well as knickknacks and household items.
Other vendors include Catsmeow, which offers tailoring and repair services; Fragrance World, a local maker of soaps and incense, and Steve’s Hot Wheels Collectibles, which sells new and vintage Hot Wheels.
Morrison, of Akron, and co-owner Jim Lepera opened the flea market in 2008, renting the old furniture store.
Morrison said while the weak economy has pinched some vendors’ sales, she and Lepera have enough vendors to pay the bills.
Previously, Morrison operated a food court at the Connection Flea Market in Eastgate Plaza in the Ellet area of Akron, which closed this year. “I thought to myself I could open my own flea market and have a food court, too,” Morrison said.
Lepara and Morrison, both 67, had worked together before, selling popcorn and cotton candy at various events.
Lepara is a retired maintenance worker for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Morrison continues to work full-time, leading a janitorial crew for a cleaning service. Morrison’s husband, Robert Morrison, a retired press operator, works at the flea market, opening it in the morning and helping vendors move in.
Morrison said she has no plans to retire from the cleaning service or the flea market.
The vendors and customers “keep me on my toes,” she said. “I don’t want to end up sitting down in front of a TV.”
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.