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Saturday April 19th 2014

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Flea Finds

Bargain shopping in the outdoors
By Jennie McKeon

Even though you’d rather hide from the sweltering heat in the mall where prices are marked up and the air conditioner is on high, you might be missing out on some hot deals…literally.

While flea markets and community yard sales are year-round, it’s nice to be reminded that there are alternative places to spend your summer-job cash.

Bayview Park is the perfect spot to do just about anything. And from spring to fall you can check out great deals on the first Saturday of the month until September. Take a walk under the trees and peruse through items such as clothing, jewelry, furniture and baked goods.

“It’s a nice atmosphere. You don’t have sales associates bothering you like the mall,” said Reba Smith, program specialist at the Bayview Senior Center. “You can just browse from table to table and enjoy the breeze.”

The flea market has a steady flow this year, and with items priced from $1 to $10, it’s worth the effort to hunt for treasure.

Pensacola has been haggling with vendors at the T&W Flea Market for almost 30 years. Not only is it a great place to shop, but you can grab lunch and people watch.

“There’s something for everybody,” said Josh Fields, who manages the flea market with his family. “You can come out and shop, eat lunch and people watch. We’ve got a lot of interesting people.”

One of the best things about a flea market is that you’re never quite sure what you will find for sale.

“We sell pretty much everything,” Fields said. “Anything from live chickens to records, from baby clothes to designer clothes.”

The strangest items? Those would be animals other than chickens.

“Some people bring stuff in that I’m not sure would sell, like snakes, lizards and even hedgehogs,” Fields said.

The T&W Flea Market also sells a wide variety of food such as Mexican and Asian dishes. There’s also an on-site restaurant so you can take a break from haggling.

For Fields, working at a flea market isn’t always easy. Being surrounded by good deals can get tempting.

“Some of the best deals I’ve bought were cedar tables for $90 a piece, a stainless-steel blender for about $15 and a neon beer sign,” Fields said.

At the Gulf Breeze Flea Market some of the vendors and employees have been working together for years. Sandra Pittelko has been working for the flea market for 18 years. Pittelko started working in the concession stand and eventually took over for the retiring manager. In the span of 10 minutes, Pittelko gets three calls. Whether it’s a suspicious person or an ATM malfunction, she is on it.

“It’s an all-day affair,” Pittelko said as she clipped her walkie-talkie to her jeans.

Pittelko enjoys her job and the people she works with. She knows all of her vendors by name and takes the time to meet with them and keep the communication lines open. Pittelko also watches out for the physical appearance of the flea market. As she walks from one vendor to another, she picks up pieces of trash.

“I’m not above doing anything,” Pittelko said. “I scrub toilets, I take out the trash. There’s no ‘I’ in ‘teamwork’.”

As for the deals, you can find a variety of new and used goods at a fair price. “Who Dat” wallets and Vera Bradley-inspired purses fill an entire booth with bright colors. Cardboard boxes are lined up on opposite sides of the flea market featuring various items such as hair goods, make-up and kitchen utensils. Most are just $1. Arts and crafts are appreciated as well. Bruce and Joann Byrd make their own flower planters out of discarded golf cart tires. The colorful and functional creations are what draw people to their booth.

In another booth, collectibles and antiques are lined up perfectly on shelves and tables. Whether you’re looking for fairy statues or an “I Love Lucy” alarm clock, Caroline McCaul has it.

“I buy what I like,” McCaul said of her inventory. “If it doesn’t sell, I’m going to have to live with it.”

McCaul, one of the original vendors, has been working the Gulf Breeze Flea Market for 18 years. People don’t even have to shop, some come to visit McCaul and she has an extra chair just in case.

“I love what I do,” McCaul said. “I love the people. It’s personal. I have people who visit me when they come down here. I don’t always remember their names, but I remember their faces. Sometimes, I don’t even remember my own name.”

In the fall you can add another flea market to your Saturday shopping. The Gull Point Community Center will hold its flea market every second Saturday of the month from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. May the best bargain win.

info@inweekly.net

BAYVIEW PARK SPRING FLEA MARKET
WHEN: 8 a.m.-12 p.m. First Saturday of each month
WHERE: 20th Avenue and Blount Street
COST: Free
DETAILS: 436-5190

GULF BREEZE FLEA MARKET
WHEN: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Every Saturday and Sunday
WHERE: 5760 Gulf Breeze Parkway
COST: Free
DETAILS: 934-1971

T&W FLEA MARKET
WHEN: 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Every Saturday and Sunday
WHERE: 1717 N. T St.
COST: Free
DETAILS: 433-4315 or tandwfleamarket.com