05. October 2008 · Comments Off on The Other Marketplace · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, Memoir, Working In A Salt Mine..., World

Blondie and I went out to what may be possibly the most marvelous permanently-revolving street market in a permanent place, this afternoon: Busey’s Flea Market, on 1-35 North, along about the other-wise invisible town of Schertz. It’s about fifteen minutes brisk driving outside the San Antonio city limits. As Blondie describes it, it’s a yard sale on steroids, a range of three long parallel sheds extending uphill from the frontage road. The front of Busey’s is adorned with a gigantic concrete armadillo. It’s been freshly repainted this year, business must be good, although one of the regular stallholders lamented that the rents had been raised, which drove out a certain number of old regulars. Damn if I could tell the difference, though. Actually, it seemed like the pickings were unnaturally good. The stall with the WWII and German aviation memorabilia was as unattended as ever. Will has tried to buy stuff there, and been frustrated because no one can ever locate the person authorized to make sales. The guy with the nice and orderly selection in books was having a going-out-of-business sale, but that was the only harbinger of immanent change.

See, there are a number of different tiers of vendor at Busey’s – the well-established ones with medium-deep pockets and long-term plans have a space in one of the sheds, with a locking door, although what sort of permanence that can mean, when the shed is roofed in un-insulated tin and the walls are made out of something-not-very-permanent-at all… 2 x 4’s and tissue paper, I suspect. Never mind – the permanent vendors have their stalls packed so full, and their premises so well-organized it is obvious they are not going anywhere soon. Not without the aid of a couple of moving-vans and some strong backs, at least. Carpets, hardware, antiques, military surplus, books, kitchenware, Mexican ceramics … and all that. And more. Much, much more. There are a also a good few vendors of fast food – ice cream, hot dogs, BBQ sandwiches, chili-cheese fries (an interesting and artery-clogging combination, sort of the entrée-course variant of a deep-fried Mars-bar) and thank god, cold water. There is also a curendera/palm-reader advertising her ability to tell the past, present and future, a pet store with an array of birds, and today a guy outside the venue, offering Chihuahua puppies – very cute, light-chocolate colored with white feet. Yeah, The Lesser Weevil would have liked them very much. “For me? Thanks very much for the lunch!” The cats, however, would have preferred the birds.

After the permanent, enclosed stalls, there are the tables, under one of three long awnings, rambling up the hill. People back their cars and pick-ups up to their pitch, and unpack what they have – plants, ironwork, DVDs, spurious folk art, tools, garden ornaments, house wares, small and large appliances— practically anything you could imagine. Blondie insists that the pros – who hit all the yard sales, swooping down with lightning fast-speed and scooping up the good stuff — they show up at Busey’s with their gleanings within a day or so. They also hit the various ‘everything marked down-absolutely must go! sales, and thrift stores instantly when the new donations are put out. Their stock must come from somewhere, after all. Some of this still has the original tags still on it. These vendors, although regular, have the chore of packing it all up and taking it away every Sunday afternoon. Be warned – they usually start at this by about 3 PM.

The last tier of vender must be those people who are not regulars, who have a table for a weekend only. Dad always said that those are the vendors whom are most likely to offer really good bargains – they just want to get rid of it for a so-so price. Unlike the regular vendors with a permanent pitch, with doors that can be locked, they are not canny and not particularly knowledgeable about what they have to vend. This is where the stunning coups are made, where people buy something for a couple of dollars, and turn up with it on “Antiques Road-show” a couple of years later. This afternoon, Blondie scored a pressed-glass bowl of deep black glass, nearly half an inch thick. She got it for $12 dollars, and according to one of the permanent dealers, something like that could sell at Busey’s for about thrice that. Deity only knows how much to an expert – but we liked it. It met the criterion of being strong and thick enough to kill someone if you hit them with it.

Me, I would only love to be asked to host a TV show where the challenge would be to entirely fit out a whole house with the gleanings from a place like Busey’s and assorted other local thrift stores. Furniture, linens, curtains, knick-knacks, wall art, kitchen fittings, china and glass – the whole thing, at drop-dead bargain rates .

I don’t have an agent – if the Home and Garden Network is interested, let us know through this website… Oh, and we were only going there to look for drawer pulls for the 1880-1920 dressing table that Blondie picked up for $25 dollars at a yard sale. She beat the pros to it. The backs of the drawers are all dove-tailed… but the front of it was such a wreck, that’s why the pros gave it a miss.

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