Confusion clears over flea market flap

An update and expansion of Cloverdale’s long-running Sunday flea market will be going ahead – with the original operator on side.

An update and expansion of Cloverdale’s long-running Sunday flea market will be going ahead – with the original operator on side.

Last month, the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association issued a request for proposals from qualified operators to assume management, marketing and operation of a new weekend market.

New and existing vendors will be encouraged to participate in the new format, association general manager Dave Melenchuk said, adding there had initially been some confusion following the announcement.

The enhanced market was supposed to combine the traditional flea market and a country market, all in one place, in a bid to reach out to new customers who hadn’t been before – and to woo back those who hadn’t visited the Sunday flea market in years.

But some long-time vendors worried that they would not be included in the revitalization plans under a new operator, Melenchuk said.

Some began circulating a petition, fearing they were about to be kicked to the curb.

“A lot of the current operators got upset,” Melenchuk said, blaming the rumour mill and a “miscommunication in the press” that was sorted out once the details of the Request for Proposals were made clear to the vendors.

“A couple of ladies went and gathered signatures” on a petition, he said. “They actually came in to meet me one day. They were a lot upset – until we went through the RFP.”

Although other hopefuls submitted proposals by the April 15 deadline, the association decided to work with the existing operator, who’d been encouraged to submit a plan, too.

“We had a long discussion with the other proponents, but we felt the existing operator, first of all, has the experience, the knowledge and the drive, and also has sort of opened his mind to the addition of new things,” Melenchuk said.

In revitalizing and expanding the flea market, the association also hoped to make clear there will be zero tolerance for counterfeit goods due to health and safety concerns.

“The authorities had visited from time to time,” Melenchuk said, adding the association had also met with the RCMP’s border integrity division. “It’s our desire that that does not happen.”

The flea market – which boasts an average weekly attendance of 3,000 to 5,000 – is on hiatus during the Cloverdale Rodeo, taking place over the May long weekend, but will return June 4 and evolve from there.

The association plans to work with the market operator to expand the products and services available by including artisans, new food vendors, and even the occasional entertainment attraction like midway rides.

“The area is growing. You get a lot of people here every Sunday, but I think there’s the opportunity to expand what we have to appeal to other user groups,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, everybody is going to be better off.”

The weekly flea market, now in its 33rd year, has been run by the same operator for many years, under contract with the association, which oversees the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

An immediate goal might include improving the market’s web presence with a site that would have a schedule of events – and enable vendors to book table space on-line.

“Right now, a lot of people line up at 2 a.m.”