by Kevin Zimmerman
Although the word “alley” usually conjures up images of a narrow back street, that is hardly the case with Wholesale Alley, the wholesalers’ market in central North Carolina that consists of over 100 buildings and covers roughly 17 acres. Open since 1979, Wholesale Alley is the twice-weekly, Mondays and Tuesdays, home for approximately 85 independent vendors selling everything from clothing, including a specialist in clergy and choir apparel, gold and silver as well as costume jewelry, and toys to tools, florists and assorted housewares – and beyond.
“Our vendors stretch all up and down the East Coast, and as far west as the Chicago area,” says Kevin Berkeley, who with his wife Sarah has owned Wholesale Alley since 2000.
The diversity in products on offer, he adds, is partly to provide wholesale customers with a one-stop shop opportunity: “We have people who might drive eight to 10 hours to get here, and we want them to be able to find whatever they want onsite rather than have to go to three different locations to make their purchases.”
While most vendors operate on a month-by-month contract, Berkeley notes that many have stayed with Wholesale Alley for 20-plus years. “There are those who view wholesale as a quick means to make easy money,” he observes. “They’re the ones who don’t tend to last. True wholesale companies don’t leave.”
Berkeley estimates that turnover averages around three or four vendors per year; small wonder, then, that there is a waiting list. A one-time vendor registration fee – which covers the rental agreement, signage, employee badges, and records maintained by Wholesale Alley is $280; facility rental rates include a roll-up door option at $150 per month, and T-row spaces at $275 per month; utilities are shared by several vendors with an average monthly cost of $25.
“We are always looking for room to improve the facilities,” Berkeley says, noting that replacing old buildings with newer ones is an ongoing project.
In addition to the wholesale space, which is open every Monday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wholesale Alley also oversees a farmers market every Tuesday from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Berkeley says plans are afoot to expand that property, which stands separate from the wholesale area. Currently the farmers market offers 600 spaces and houses roughly 300 vendors. Spaces are available for as little as $7 per day.
One thing that is unlikely to change is Wholesale Alley’s business days and hours. Berkeley explains that most vendors have their own warehouses that require their attention throughout the week, while flea marketers usually do the bulk of their business Fridays through Sundays. For more information on Wholesale Alley, please visit www.wholesalealley.net.
308 Berrier Avenue
Lexington, NC 27295