The new Church Street Market in Edgewood, an indoor flea market, has been a low-key operation for the last three weeks as finishing touches were being put into place for last Saturday’s grand opening.
Things were bustling during the weekend event, though. Patrons hustled for prime parking spaces in the crowded dirt lot surrounding the repurposed building, formerly housing a feed store.
Inside, artists, entrepreneurs and shoppers bartered, ogled, and chatted around miscellaneous treasures, including vintage cookie jars and birdhouses made from cowboy boots. The band would occasionally interrupt their set as door prizes were announced. Between sales, vendors fussed over their storefront decorations, newly painted signs, and merchandise arrangements.
“We’ve been busy,” said Clay Williams, founder of the commercial space. The 23 booths, most of which are arranged neatly along a corridor, were designed by Clay’s wife, Diana Williams, and his sister-in-law, Carolyn Williams. The tiny storefronts are reminiscent of a miniaturized Main Street.
“Clay and his brother, Bruce Williams, took care of the building stuff and Carolyn and I handled the fun stuff, like painting and designing in collaboration with the vendors,” Diana Williams said. “Almost all the materials are recycled. See how the walls of this booth are made from old drawer doors?”
The property has gone through several iterations. According to Clay Williams, the original building on the site was a portable barrack. It was first used as a military mess hall at Kirtland Air Force Base before it got moved to the old Albuquerque High School, where it was used as a shop classroom.
“That’s where I bought it in 1978 from a man in a bathrobe and house slippers who said I could have it for a dollar if I could take it off his hands and move it in two weeks, Clay Williams said.” He brought the building to Edgewood and in 1980 made additions in order to outfit it as a wholesale pet supplies store that at one point distributed to 220 stores.
Eventually they closed the business, rented out the space to a feed supply tenant, and used the rest of the building as a parking garage for the Williams’ extensive car collection.
Last year, when the Williams brothers’ parents moved into a nursing home, they hosted an estate sale at the property, which is how the idea to turn the place into an indoor flea market was born.
“Coming to that estate sale was one of the last things my husband and I did together before he passed away,” said Sue Ferrera, the vendor behind the Double Nickel Trading Post booth. “I signed up for a booth so I could downsize our own estate when I found out the Williams were planning to do this flea market. If you’ve ever been in a small business, you know this is a bargain. And all the vendors help each other out because we all sell unique things, so we don’t have to compete.”
Ferrera points at a green lamp and tells me, “See, we even buy from each other. I just got that lamp a few minutes ago. And we have an understanding that if you buy something and can sell it later, great. We’re like a community. The Williams have bent over backward for us. We didn’t even have to pay the first month’s rent so that we could first start making money.”
Diana Williams said she knows it took a leap of faith on behalf of the vendors. “They stuck by us,” she said. “Even when we had some delays, since we were trying to open in April or May. So we waived the first month of rent.”
The prices for the booths are $175 for an 8-foot by 8-foot space, $185 for an 8-foot by 10-foot space, and $200 for a 10-foot by 10-foot space. However, in the two days leading up to the grand opening, the wait list for booths went from three to 22. In the future, the Williams hope to expand the number of booth spaces available and maybe host a farmer’s market and food vendors.
Clay Williams encouraged bands who want to play at the market to contact him. “The more the merrier,” he said.
Diana Ortiz, proprietor of the Catalyst booth, said she looks forward to having more vendors. “This is my first time doing this kind of thing,” she said. “I’ve never had a business before and this is great. I don’t have to tear down, like with a yard sale. And the interaction is what I’m looking for. You bump elbows with people who have the same interests, like gardening, art, and antiques. It’s fun and you meet fun people.”
Vendors reported being very satisfied with their sales during the grand opening. Except for a WiFi glitch that was resolved, the event when off without a hitch.
In the future, the Williams plan to put up billboards along I-40 to attract interstate traffic. They also have a Facebook page and are working on a business website.
Hours of operation are Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some vendors are open on Fridays. On the third Thursday of every month, the Church Street Market opens from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information call 505-440-8119.