Fleamasters Blog


Left: Building Fleamasters Pavilion and Music Hall, 1992. Right: A crowd gathers at the face painting spot during Fleamasters’ Great Pumpkin Festival, in October, 2011.

Fleamasters Fleamarket: A Short History

POSTED FEBRUARY 13, 2016 BY LINDA STEELE

As Fleamasters celebrates its 30th Year in S.W. Florida, we look back at a few highlights...
Fleamasters opened mid-July, in 1986. Outdoor markets date back to ancient times where merchants gathered to buy and sell goods and services. Wherever there was a large number of people, there was sure to be a colorful market. Fleamasters was created to be the market of Ft. Myers. Hundreds of unique small shops combine for an old world bazaar feel — from second-hand treasures to new boutique shops.

A number of retailers have been with us 30 years! Three have been open from the very first day… Steve Wheeler, locksmith and lottery store, in Row A; Tom and Janice Kennedy, paperback books and collectibles, Row B; and Janet Cohen Jackson, with Janet’s Jewels in Row A. About 40% of Fleamasters vendors have been here 10 years or more.

In the late 80’s, Pulga (Spanish: “flea”) Radio was broadcast from a small station in the Blue Aisle. The radio show, which featured local personality John McQ, featured listeners calling in for discount coupons and to buy and sell merchandise. This was like our own early version of eBay and Groupon.

In July, 1990, Fleamasters published its first market newspaper. Issue #1 was called the Bargain Guide, the second issue ran with its current “Market Guide” name. The Market Guide has been published nine times a year ever since.

Originally built to host events, Fleamasters’ built the Grand Pavilion addition in 1992. Around the week the roof trusses went up, hurricane Andrew blasted across the state. The hurricane track fell well south of Fleamasters. However, a week later, a strong thunderstorm with microbursts of wind severely damaged the new construction, and most of the roof had to be rebuilt. Although the original concept was for an event pavilion, the demand for market spaces was so great that the Pavilion quickly filled up with vendors and flea market stores.

In August, 2004, Hurricane Charley tore across S.W. Florida like a buzzsaw. The hurricane made landfall near North Captiva Island with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. Many of Fleamasters’ retailers had major damage to their homes; some homes were lost entirely. Fleamasters weathered the storm well, with only slight damage to some of the roofing.

Hit the lights: The Music Hall opened to the public in 2008, with a down-home country show starring our own Bobby Slaughter (Time on My Hands Guitar Store, Row A) and the Country Classics Band. Local and national talent have performed on the stage: from country to rock, from doo-wop to latin jazz. The Music Hall offers live music and dance performances during the peak shopping seasons, October through April — and is available to rent for private events. See Fleamasters’ event calendar and get more information on fleamall.com

Seasonal celebrations: Fleamasters’ hosted its first Watermelon Festival and Pumpkin Festival in 2010. At the annual Watermelon Festival, folks of all ages can test their skills at the Speed Eating and Seed Spitting Competition. At the Pumpkin Festival, kids adopt a pumpkin to paint and take home. Both events offer a Community Exhibition Area, live music in the market and Music Hall, skill games and face painting. Plus new additions and surprises every year!

Let the sun shine: In 2012, Fleamasters installed 4,200 solar panels on the gently sloped market roofs. On a sunny day, the panels provide 1.2 megawatts of power, which is one million, two hundred thousands watts. Fleamasters’ solar system provides about two-thirds of the market’s power. Solar power is only one way Fleamasters is eco-friendly. Each week, the market recycles hundreds of pounds of cardboard, paper trash, and cooking oil.

Signs of the times: In 2013, Fleamasters installed two new electronic signs along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., an electronic billboard and new entrance sign. “We’ve preserved the aspect of an open and free marketplace, where anyone can sell anything, as long as it’s legal,” said Fleamasters founder and owner, Andy Steele. “Yet, we’re also hi-tech, with digital signage, wireless internet, and solar panels. We’re able to connect better with customers, and provide a top retail experience for our vendors.”

May, 2014. Ft. Myers resident Brent Ray sets S.W. Florida’s seed spitting record at Fleamasters’ Watermelon Festival. Brent propelled a tiny melon seed an astonishing 56-feet, 8-inches.

As of December, 2015, over 29,380 people have rented space to sell at Fleamasters. As many as 2,000 people are employed here at the hundreds and hundreds of small stores, and by the market itself. About 1.4 million shoppers visit Fleamasters each year, making it S.W. Florida’s no. 2 tourist attraction, second to the Seminole Gaming Casino. Fleamasters is owned and operated by the same family that founded it.

 

Opportunity for Antique and Collectibles Stores at Fleamasters

POSTED JUNE 12, 2015 BY LINDA STEELE

With all the social media sites on the internet, Fleamasters shoppers have many opportunities to share their experiences and thoughts about our market. Fleamasters’ management reads and responds to as many reviews as we can.

One trend that we’ve noticed is that shoppers would like to see more vintage merchandise, antiques and collectibles at Fleamasters Fleamarket. One visitor, from Syracuse, wrote, “We were in search of antiques, and although there were some, most of the booths had Florida decor items, T-shirts, clothes, purses, luggage, shoes, sandals, jewelry, books and such.”

Although the market has a few great vendors selling antiques, some shoppers would like to see more.
If you’re looking for a place to set up an antique shop, and a 3-day sales week appeals to you, please consider Fleamasters. The customer demand seems to be here, rental rates are lower than you might expect, and we’d love to find a great spot for you.

There are already highly trafficked areas in the Yellow aisle and Grand Pavilion that have become favorites for garage sales and used items.

For more information about selling at Fleamasters, see our "sell here" section, or stop by our rental office in the market.

What customers look for in antique shops:

• Items that are authentic, unusual and well-crafted.
• Antiques in excellent condition.
• Diversity in types of products carried, or specialization — including a knowledgeable dealer being on hand to answer questions.
• A stimulating, fun environment that makes customers feel welcome and comfortable.
Source: MediaMarketing Inc., Profile America

 

Fleamasters vendors answer the question: "What do you want to change in 2015?" Pictured (clockwise, left to right) Jerry, RADA Cutlery Green at Row B; Liz, Good Books Used and Rare, Pavilion C7; Cathy, Gourmet Coffee Shop, Blue 16; Crystal, Crystal's Beer and Wine Hut, Pavilion C17; Larry, Custom Name Rings, Green at Row C; and Chris, Watch Trendz, Blue 99.

A New Year, A Fresh Start

POSTED DEC 24, 2014 BY BRANDON GARVER

With the arrival of 2015, many Fleamasters business owners have resolved to make changes in their life — some minor every day changes, others major habit overhauls, and still others simply wish to keep up their progress on resolutions made years ago. We asked a few of them to share their resolution plans for 2015.

Cathy Brown, at the Gourmet Coffee Shop, says, “I used to volunteer a lot, and my goal is to make time to return to it. I believe a life of service to others is a life well-lived.” Cathy serves her gourmet coffee on the Blue Aisle, at Booth 16 in the South Food Court.

Crystal, who runs Crystal’s Beer & Wine Hut, is a cancer survivor. Her experience influences her resolution for 2015: “I want to live a healthier lifestyle, and urge others to do so as well. When it comes down to it, your health is all you’ve got. It is very important to take care of yourself.” Find Crystal’s beverage stand in the Grand Pavilion building at Fleamasters, near the stage at Booth C17.

One of Fleamasters’ long-time store owners also urged a healthy lifestyle. She wished to remain anonymous, but shared her resolution to keep off cigarettes. “Three years ago I quit smoking — after 42 years of it. I still get cravings often, so my resolution is to keep up the fight, and keep off the smokes. And I urge people to stay away from the stuff, too. If I could convince even one person to walk away from that first cigarette, I would do it.” The downsides of smoking are no secret these days, and neither are the struggles of breaking the addiction. Our thoughts and support go out to this brave store owner as she enters her fourth year fighting nicotine, and to anyone else out there who is making such a difficult — but beneficial — change of habit.

Liz Lutzi is in love with books, so much so that she thinks it may be a little overboard. Chuckling at herself, she says, “I should resolve to read a little less…but I know I’ll just keep reading more.” Liz sells books from her store in the Grand Pavilion, Good Books: Used & Rare in booth C7. We on the Fleamasters staff love books too. More reading is always a good thing!

Jerry, who sells Rada brand cutlery and American made Buck knives in the center of Green Aisle at Booth 36 didn’t have to think long before he smiled and told us, “I want to be nicer.” He was already nice enough to let us snap a picture of him, so we think he’s on the right track to achieving his goal in 2015.

Just down the aisle, Larry at Custom Name Rings — Green Aisle and Row C — said, “I want to be the best person that I can be, and continue to exceed my customer’s expectations when they come to my store.”

And finally, a little wry humor from Watch Trendz owner Chris Pappas: “Well, since I can never keep my resolutions, this year I’m going with one I can stick with — to not have a new year’s resolution! Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!” You can find Chris in his store on Blue Aisle, Booth 99.

Whatever your goals for 2015 might be, Fleamasters wishes you the best of luck in achieving them. Remember, even a little improvement, in any aspect of life, is a good thing! Fleamasters wishes you a fantastic 2015!

 

Sell here

Top 5 Reasons to Sell at Fleamasters Fleamarket

POSTED JULY 26, 2014 BY YOUR FLEAMALL BLOGGER

1. Affordability. Have you ever dreamed about opening your own retail store? A big problem… retail is notoriously expensive. Start-up costs for rent, deposits, inventory, fixtures, staffing and advertising can set you back well over $100,000. Rent in a mall or strip store (from kiosks to full-size stores) can cost tens of thousands per month. Some malls take a cut of your annual revenue. Add to that additional fees for common area maintenance, lawyer’s fees to decipher the book-sized contracts, and… well, you get the picture.

On the other hand, selling at Fleamasters is simple and affordable. Rent a 120-sq ft store space for about $250/month. Start small and expand as you’re able. Spend your investment dollars on merchandise, not rent. Here, you’ll put your profit in your own pocket, not your landlord’s.

2. Customer traffic. Ft. Myers is a favorite destination for Florida visitors. The Tourist Development Council reports that SW Florida’s visitor occupancy rate is on the upswing, climbing 6.3 percent higher in 2014 (July 2014 report). Fleamasters attracts a good mix of tourists and local residents. We host about 1.4 million shoppers annually (as documented by our underground traffic counters).

3. Low risk. You don’t need to sign a long-term lease to sell here. Rent for as little as one day, or stay for years. The best retail locations combine affordability, visibility and rental terms you can live with. Fleamasters excels at all three. It’s a great place to test a new product, sell off surplus merchandise, start a new business or supplement retirement income.

4. Good neighbors. At Fleamasters, we view our store owners as part of a big family. Many lifelong friendships have been made here… even a marriage or two! People are the greatest asset here. There’s a diverse mix of shopkeepers and stores selling items from avon and art to watches and vintage clothing. Chances are, you’ll find neighbors here that compliment what you plan to sell. Twenty food stands offer breakfast, lunch and snacks. During the busy, tourist season months, bands and musicians perform on our Music Hall stage. Customers come here for the wide variety and festive atmosphere.

5. Committed to help your business grow. Sometimes landlords lack the funds to maintain their properties. Rather than supporting their tenants, they try to squeeze out whatever they can get. Fleamasters invests back into the market in a big way. The market has a full-time maintenance staff that continually makes improvements. Market advertising includes ads on tourist maps, print, web, outdoor and TV. Fleamasters recently installed a solar power system and bright new electronic highway signs. We do all we can to make business good for you.

Read more about selling at Fleamasters


3 Secrets to Garage Sale Success: A Buyer’s Guide

POSTED JUNE 18, 2014 BY YOUR FLEAMALL BLOGGER

1. Be friendly. Start a dialogue with the seller. Say hello to when you arrive, and compliment their merchandise if you like it. It only takes a second or two, and the seller may appreciate your friendliness when it's time to talk about price. Getting the seller talking will start to bring down barriers, and may get you a great deal. Tell them how much you’re willing to pay for the item you’re interested in, and negotiate from there.

Don't expect to get huge discounts in the first hour or two in the morning. Most sellers will wait to see if the pieces sell for the full prices before giving discounts.

Want a better price? Bundle. Make your best offer on a group of items.

And make a point to bring small bills. You won’t have to feel awkward presenting a $20 when you just negotiated the price down to two bucks.

2. Be prepared. If you’re buying collectibles, or thinking about buying something for resale, bring your smartphone or a guidebook to check an item’s value.

Remember that when you’re looking at prices on online auction sites like eBay, you’re seeing what the seller thinks that item should be worth, not necessarily what it will sell for. Consider the basics when assessing value: an item’s condition, the age and rarity of the piece, whether or not it’s an original or reproduction.

If you love it, buy it! It might not be there when you go back.

3. Power shop. Research the best days and neighborhoods for garage sale shopping in your area. Don’t forget about flea markets. Here at Fleamasters Fleamarket in Ft. Myers, you’ll find about 50 garage sales set up in the market during any given weekend, sometimes as many as 100. But even here, Sundays are busier, and there are more garage sales during the cooler months. Check out your local flea market, where you will spend less time driving from place-to-place, and more time finding the treasures you want.

 


May Events in Full Swing: Best Dressed Chihuahua Wrap-up

POSTED MAY 9, 2014 BY YOUR FLEAMALL BLOGGER

Who decided to have two big events in one month?! We're hustling to get ready for next week's Salsa Dance Party and Watermelon Festival... and hope you'll be with us to enjoy the fun. Please be sure to check the Watermelon Festival page on this site for the latest schedule and updates. In the meantime, this year's Best Dressed Chihuahua contest is a wrap. Thanks and kudos to each and every person who came to participate and watch. We had a blast, and raised $300 for Paws for Patriots™. Southeastern Guide Dogs’ Paws for Patriots™ is an amazing program providing guide dogs to vision-impaired members of our armed forces. Specifically, big thanks goes to The Calendar Girls Dance Team; the 29 contestants and their fabulous dogs; Lidia Ortega, our emcee from WINK 97.7; and Vanessa Ruffes of WINK News this Morning. Plus the terrific judges and volunteers. Miss the contest, or want to relive the highlights? Enjoy the wrap-up video, produced by Brandon Garver.

 

Market Launches New Website in April

POSTED APRIL 4, 2014 BY YOUR FLEAMALL BLOGGER

If you've been to the market recently, then you've probably noticed a number of big changes and improvements. Probably the most visible are our new entrance sign and electronic billboards along S.R. 82. There are not so obivious changes, too. For example, the whole market has wireless internet. At some point, we decided our website should be more reflective of exactly who we are. We especially wanted to highlight Fleamasters' video "Stories of the Market," that center around our store owners. We're very proud of our independent vendors and their accomplishments. Hope you enjoy connecting with them, and exploring the site. See you at the market!

Small is Good: Top Reasons to Support Small Businesses at Fleamasters Fleamarket

POSTED APRIL 4, 2014 BY YOUR FLEAMALL BLOGGER

1. Find something different. Fleamasters’ stores have unique items and services you won’t find in big box stores. These make great gifts! (And if you hate stepping out on the town and seeing somebody wearing the exact same outfit as you, shop small.)
2. Preserve unique places to shop. Fleamasters’ one-of-a-kind stores add great character to our S.W. Florida community. Tourism also benefits. People love to visit interesting, vital, destinations.
3. Connect with community at Fleamasters. Our stores depend on maintaining a relationship with you, unlike the giants who sometimes seem too successful to care. You are valued, and will get good, personal service here.
4. Support your neighbors. Local businesses reinvest in the local community 60 percent more than larger chains and retailers, according to a "U.S. News" article. By purchasing an item at one of our clothing boutiques, a shopper is also supporting a local attorney, tax preparer, printer, etc.
5. Keep the American dream alive. Entrepreneurship drives innovation and growth. Shopping at small businesses says you support the American dream.
6. Create local jobs. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses represent 99.7% of all U.S. employers. Several hundred people are employed within Fleamasters Fleamarket.
7. Feel good about what you spend. Fleamasters’ retailers are grateful for your purchase and genuinely appreciate your business. THANK YOU! You’re supporting S.W. Florida’s economy.



 


Fleamasters Store Directory

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Video stories of the market

Open a business at Fleamasters

Events and Music at Fleamasters

More than you can see in a day...

This is BIG!

• 400,000 square feet
• 900+ shops, 20 food stands

Easy to Find

On SR 82 1-1/4 miles
west of I-75, Ft. Myers. Click to see location map

GPS and Mailing
Address

4135 Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Ft. Myers, Florida 33916

3 Big Days

May 1 — Sept. 30
Friday 9 to 3,
Saturday & Sunday 9 to 5

Oct. 1 — April 30
Friday, Saturday & Sunday 9 to 5

Cool

Misting fans, insulated ceilings and many air conditioned stores make shopping at Fleamasters pleasant year round.

Sell it Here

New dealers are always welcome. Download rental rates and information...

Contact Us

Mailing Address
4135 M.L. King Jr. Blvd.
Ft. Myers, Florida 33916

Call Fleamasters
(239) 334-7001

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