It’s the end of an era – and the start of a whole new chapter for the Cloverdale Flea Market, a Sunday tradition for bargain hunters more than 30 years.
The flea market will undergo a change of management at the end of this month, when the existing operator will be stepping down, said Dave Melenchuk, general manager of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association, which operates the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.
The market will continue to operate without interruption as the new, as-yet unnamed operator takes over, Melenchuk said, adding he expected the new lease to be signed this week.
Contrary to the sign erected on the fairgrounds last weekend that said the flea market was closing “forever” Nov. 27 after 34 years in operation, “We will be open,” Melenchuk said. “It will be business as usual.”
Visitors will notice some changes during the transition – the market will be evolving and expanding in the new year – but existing vendors “will be safe,” Melenchuk said. “They’ll all have a place to sell.”
The association has been trying to expand and enhance the long-running flea market, which boasts a weekly attendance of 3,000 to 5,000, in order to appeal to a wider customer base.
In the spring, the association issued a request for proposals from qualified operators interested assuming operation, marketing and management of a new, enhanced weekend market on the site.
A number of proposals came in, but in the end – and following a petition circulated by some of the vendors on site – the association decided to work with the existing operator, whose lease expired some time ago.
But the promises made six months ago haven’t transpired, and the operator has given his notice, saying he’ll be out on Nov. 27, Melenchuk said.
Over the past two Sundays, Melenchuk has spoken with a lot of the vendors, explaining the changes in store, and emphasizing that the flea market is not closing down.
“They’re excited,” he said. “They realize there needs to be a bit of a fresh look.”
The hope is to build on the existing vendors and add new attractions, including entertainment, food, buskers and even the occasional auction in order to draw more customers.
“The ultimate goal is to bring more people to the market,” Melenchuk said.
The name of the new operator hadn’t been announced by press time, but Melenchuk did reveal that the operator brings “a lifetime of experience” in the business.