Pat Knislis worked in the retail food business for 30 years, eventually owning a grocery store, but now she’s made a new start and transformed her supermarket into a flea market. She started by wondering what to do with some empty land she had next to her building in Cobalt, Conn. “We started outdoors last summer,” she says. “There’s a lot of land on Route 66 that’s vacant, so I came up with the idea for a flea market during the nice warm months. I put out an ad for vendors, and they came!”
The Cobalt Flea Market was born as a thriving outside market, and she has room for as many as 50 vendors selling outdoors at her site. But Knislis’ other business was not doing as well. “The grocery store just was not working out — the competition, the profit margins, the expense — I decided we were done,” she says. “So I brought the flea market people inside as soon as November came. I started with two-three vendors and now it is almost a full house.” By closing her grocery mart and turning the space into an indoor flea market, she has transformed her business. Now she has space for about 15 indoor vendors, and her Cobalt Flea Market is open seven days a week. Her inside vendors don’t have to be on site, however. The market staff sells the product and takes a commission on each sale.
So is it a flea market or a consignment shop? Knislis is adamant that it is a flea. “First of all, these people own their own tables. Their stuff isn’t mixed up with everyone else’s,” she explains. “They pay rent, but they only give up 15 percent, where some consignment shops take 40 percent or even more. I don’t want to be part of the business. I just want to be the landlord.” She finds that vendors are happy not to have to staff their tables.
Moreover, as the good weather returns, the outdoor flea market is about to open again — and, of course, these Saturday and Sunday vendors follow the traditional mode, each staffing their booth all day.
Her vendors cover a wide variety of merchandise. “There’s new, there’s old,” Knislis says. “Gold coins, Life magazines, collector items, antiques. Anyone who goes in there can find something they’re looking for.”
The Cobalt Flea Market, located on the well-trafficked Route 66 in central Connecticut, charges vendors $15 to $20 per day outside, and $100 to $400 per month inside, depending on table size. The indoor market is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Outdoors, the market is open Saturday and Sunday seasonally, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Photo credits, with thanks: Cobalt Flea Market via Facebook.