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Market vendors say they're like a family

July 02, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

HARPERS FERRY, W.VA. - A young boy walked up to Darryl Weller's table at the Harpers Ferry Flea Market with a deal in mind.

The youngster had some fishing poles and he wanted to know if Weller wanted to buy them. Weller looked at the poles and told the boy that they were in rough shape, so he would pass.

The boy then asked Weller if he would buy some rope.

The two haggled a bit over a price and Weller bought the rope from the boy for a dollar.

"That's the little stuff that's rewarding," Weller said.

The interaction Sunday afternoon between the boy and Weller is a part of the atmosphere at the Harpers Ferry Flea Market that vendors said will disappear if a developer proceeds with his plan to build apartments and duplexes at the flea market property at the intersection of U.S. 340 and Millville Road.

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Last Tuesday, the Jefferson County Planning Commission approved a community impact statement for the proposed Allstadt's Corner, which would involve replacing the flea market and a fruit stand with 24 two-bedroom apartments and 28 duplexes.

A timeline for construction of the homes has not been given, although an attorney for developers Jim and Barbara Gibson said development of such a project can be lengthy in Jefferson County.

For 25 years, the market has been a place where people can pick up a pair of work gloves for a buck, peruse small collections of Civil War artifacts and buy DVDs. At other booths, jewelry, clothing, tools, antiques and knickknacks are for sale, and a concession stand offers hot food and snacks.

The flea market is also where Wilt's Fruit Stand operates, and a walk through the open-air stand offers visitors the pleasing aroma of fresh apples, watermelons and tomatoes. The stand was jammed with people Sunday looking at the produce and other food items like Dutch apple preserves, cranberry orange marmalade and sweet corn salsa.

Some vendors said they have been coming to the flea market so long and enjoy selling merchandise with other people so much that their friends are like family to them.

It's where vendors and shoppers can marvel over old items, like antique glass-eye washers and people who are short on cash can look to the market to help them make ends meet.

"It's employment for a lot of people. The economy is not real good," said Weller.

Weller had a large display of antiques, fishing rods, tools, books and other items. He said he has been collecting and selling items since he was a kid and it takes him several hours to set up his spot for a day of business.

Francis Gutrige of Chambersburg, Pa., who was selling tools at the flea market Sunday, said he started coming to the Harpers Ferry Flea Market after a flea market in Falling Waters, W.Va., closed.

"They're closing them all over. Something's happening," said Gutrige, adding that he believes many flea markets are falling victim to development projects.

William Lester Kidder III said he comes to the Harpers Ferry Flea Market often and he said it will be sad to see it go. The pace of development that Jefferson County is seeing will result in another "Rockville (Md.) unfortunately," Kidder said.

Before they know it, people who visit Jefferson County will turn around and say, "You know, 'This really used to be a nice place.' Unfortunately, we all suffer from it," Kidder said.

Brian and Jody Chapman have been coming to the local flea market for six years to sell purses, jewelry and clothes. Brian Chapman said his regular job is in construction.

For many vendors, they can't afford to spend a lot of money on recreation, and the flea market was a chance for them to "get out. It was upsetting to a lot of people," Chapman said.

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