France is known worldwide for its less-than-humble attitude, as well as Marie Antoinette’s clueless recommendation, “Let them eat cake.” It’s given the world superb champagne, splendid cheese and silly berets. People everywhere recognize the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.
But it’s also contributed something quirky: The idea of the flea market.
The original French flea market was a specific open-air market in Paris (the marché aux puces) specializing in shabby second-hand goods – the kind that might or might not have fleas. Although today’s average, somewhat rustic market is more like a bazaar than the gritty original, the appellation has stuck. Probably for good.
Flea markets are successful because they offer buyers a bargain while letting sellers recycle rather than sending unneeded items to the landfill. Buyers can also find hand-crafted items not stocked in regular stores. In essence, it’s a big treasure hunt.
Sales experts put it this way: The resale market is booming, partly due to the recession stubbornly hanging on and partly due to a whole new breed of resale customer who is well educated and tends to “think green.” It’s a lot like antiquing to them. They feel savvy stalking bargains while also having fun.
Some flea markets are small and cozy. Some are huge. In their May, July and September shows, the Brimfield Massachusetts Antique and Flea Market booths stretch down an entire mile of Route 20, with more than 5,000 dealers filling 21 fields.
The first known flea market in Texas, which continues to this day, was kicked off in the town of Canton, 60 miles east of Dallas, more than 140 years ago. In those days, the circuit judge came to town on the first Monday of each month, so settlers rode in that day to conduct business and buy supplies. As you might expect, they soon started bringing their own goods, including wild horses, to sell or trade. When the market outgrew the town square, they created a six-acre park for the event that they named First Monday Trade Days.
Here in Stephenville, Chicken House Flea Market, 2.5 southwest of Stephenville on U.S. Highway 377, isn’t quite as old, and it isn’t organized around a circuit judge, but it has a lot of the same attributes as the venerable Canton flea market, including a diverse vendor crowd.
On a recent sales weekend, Larry Sewell, owner of Tie Dye and Treasures came down from Fort Worth to sell his wares, along with bottle cap art – a bottle cap filled with resin featuring a saying or a drawing inside. He says he’s at the Chicken House regularly, open every weekend during the spring and summer.
Nearby is Larry “the Candyman” Jackson. He makes peanut brittle and other confections in the Salvation Army kitchen in Brownwood and splits the proceeds with the Salvation Army. He took over the booth in 2007 when his father-in-law “Pappy” J.C. Egger passed away.
Just over from the Candyman, Ray Kennedy is showing his Australian shepherd-type mother dog, Penny, and her puppies that are available for adoption. He says he comes out now and then, whenever he has something to sell.
Owners of the Chicken House Flea Market are Norman Deisher and his wife Lynn. The manager is Glenda Fielder, who says one thing potential buyers and sellers should note is that the market is open year round on the second and fourth weekends of the month.
“A lot of people are confused about the schedule,” she says. “The place is open all year, not just in the spring and summer.”
She also applauds the owners, saying, “Lynn and Norman Deisher are really fair people and they keep the prices down so people can afford to come.”
The cost for a covered booth is $20 for two days. On the grass, it’s $15 for two days. If you need more information about any aspect of the flea market, give Norman Deisher a call at 254-592-6674 and he’ll get right back to you.
When you go, remember to bring dimensions for a space in your home you’re trying to furnish, a tape measure, blankets to wrap larger items and plastic bags or a satchel for stowing smaller items. Oh, and bring cash. Not all vendors take debit and credit cards.