County Market Bonanza:
6 Straight Days, Pig Roast, Draw Thousands
Chuck, Mary Militello Preside Over Flea Market Extravaganza
Chuck and Mary Militello beam as they prepare to serve their first customers Sunday at a County Market pig roast.
Bargain-seeking crowds throng the Columbus Avenue under-roof facility hosting 88 vendors.
When the economy is bad, the flea market business is fantastic.
So say Chuck and Mary Militello, operators of the Bay County Market at Columbus at Jefferson.
The Militellos are in the middle of a six-day market bonanza that is attracting thousands to the block-long downtown outdoor bazaar.
"This is a great place for lots of people because they can find bargains that would cost much more in a store," said Chuck, who with Mary has run the market since 1984.
"And we haven't raised prices in nearly 20 years," chimed in Mary. the price for a space in the mall has been $10 a day since 1987.
This Fourth of July weekend marks the longest streak of continuous operation in the history of the market, as far as can be recalled. The market opened last Thursday and will be open through Tuesday, a six day run, the Militellos said.
"We like to think by keeping prices down we are helping people out who are vendors, as well as the shoppers." said Chuck. "They can't afford to pay a lot for a stall and for people these days every penny counts."
The pig roast on Sunday is an added attraction, along with the usual vendors offering tools, toys, books, vegetables, furniture, bikes and exercise equipment -- you name it.
Even a couple of home made carny games joined the melange, offering chances to pop the balloon or toss a penny into a fishbowl and win a prize. Call it catchpenny ingenuity if you will.
Cars were jammed on the fringes of the market and on all adjoining streets as good weather and the holiday setting brought out visitors from everywhere.
"We just love the market and the street fairs in Bay City," said a Flint couple, shopping with their four-year-old daughter. "This is great fun and we already found a couple of bargains."
Only one vegetable vendor was in view, offering potatoes, zuchini, cucumbers and pickles.
"There just aren't that many truck farms anymore," observed Chuck. "It's a lot of work and most of the farmers now are older and are fading away."
A retail farmer's market continues on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Mary noted, but the number of vendors is not up to par. The wholesale produce market that used to be held in the mornings is a thing of the past.
The Militellos plan a special antique fair later in the summer on a Saturday, but the date has not been set. Fees for that event will be higher and there will be more promotion to draw antique lovers from all over the tri-county area.###
Business Article 1185
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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