After months of often-contentious debate about the location of the Lake Alfred Downtown Showplace, the City Commission in Lake Alfred, FL voted three to two to approve the closure of one block of East Haines St. on the last Saturday of each month for the open-air flea market.
Operated by Jerry Sherman and Al Kitzmiller, co-owners of Sherman’s Antiques and the Lake Alfred Antique Mall, the market was previously being held on private land next to Sherman’s Antiques. However, the new approved location is far more conducive to attracting visitors. “The location offers two main benefits. For one, it offers more visibility from the highway,” Sherman says. “When it was tucked in the back of the antiques store, people weren’t seeing it. Now they can stop and look, and see us from the other side of the road. The other reason is people can walk around the community. A lot of people, such as seniors, were apprehensive about setting up on uneven texture. This is a good, nice street for walking around.”
The Process of Approval
The resolution had been discussed in Lake Alfred for several months. In August, Sherman and Kitzmiller approached the city commissioners for approval to change the ordinance governing monthly events in the town, and a resolution was to be finalized on October 3rd. However, due to opposition by a number of individual business owners in Lake Alfred, the decision was put off until the 17th, where debate was tabled and required a special vote at an open forum last night, October 20th. With the 3 to 2 vote, Sherman and Kitzmiller received a six-month temporary window to do the event on a monthly basis. Most of the opposition was due to concerns about the traffic safety of closing the road each month, not the idea of the flea market itself.
The two business partners started the Lake Alfred Merchants Association, a non-profit organization aimed at promoting the town as “a flourishing and ever growing art, shopping and dining destination in Polk County.” The flea market, which is sponsored and promoted by the association, was launched as a way to bring people back to the area after road construction hurt many area retailers.
Sherman says the next flea market already has 52 vendors signed up, with a small parking lot next door that could accommodate another 20 or so. The flea market charges $10 for each table, although the cost is only $5 for members of the Merchants Association and free for non-profit organizations.
The Lake Alfred Downtown Showplace has already been contacted by a number of vendors from in and out of state wanting to get involved, as well as bands looking for a place to play live. Sherman says the goal is to continue to expand the flea market. “We’re hoping down the road that it outgrows this space, and we need to put it somewhere else,” he notes. “For now, our objective was to do this so we could do these kind of events more than three times a year, and that is hopefully what we’re on the way to doing and accomplishing.”