By Ajong Mbapndah L
Thomas Djidjo, an immigrant from the West African Country of Togo did not realize that
almost two years after the Flower Avenue Flea market, in Silver Spring, MD, started, it will still be in business but today the market is waxing strong.
The previous owner had closed shop because of economic reasons and Thomas, a former vendor in the Market, took months to complete the necessary paper work needed by the Montgomery County to transfer ownership and re-authorize its opening.
“In times of economic hardship, the market is a lifeline to some families,” says Djidjo, speaking in a French laden accent. “I was alone when it started, now on some days, the market attracts about two hundred people,” said Djidjo who has assorted cosmetic products in his own stand.
The growing number of vendors and visitors is a vindication of the move taken by Thomas. But for the small sign post at its entrance, it will be hard to know it is a Flea Market because it is located on a parking lot and only opens on weekends.
Djidjo is hesitant about sharing numbers in terms of what the market generates, but each vendor pays $20 per day for a stand. From clothing, to electronics, and food to books, the Flea market has a wide range of items that will make for a worthwhile trip. It is possible to get an old movie or a book for about a dollar, just as you may get a plate of food for $10 or a pair of relatively good shoes for $20.
The Atmosphere is always cheerful as everyone seems to know everyone. Customers are welcomed with smiling faces, with sellers doing their best to pull as many folks as possible to their stands.
. “I am a metro bus driver on weekdays but on weekends, the market offers me the opportunity to make extra income,” says Nigel Johnson. Johnson, whose ambition is to eventually set up a Caribbean Food chain, uses the market as a bait to test the reaction of customers. “The market helps me to build a clientele for the culinary services that I offer,” said Johnson as he uses singing to draw curious people who end up buying some grilled chicken from him.
Sundays are the busier of the two days making traffic difficult. As winter approaches, business shows little signs of a slump. Stands at the market are given on a first come first serve basis and it has to be kept clean and safe to comply with county regulations. The ambiance at the market is generally lively; people are engaged in boisterous conversations. Parking is a major issue and traffic around the two lane street at Flowers Ave is sometimes made even slower because of the market.
“I come here with my friends every now and then, even if there is nothing I buy there is always good food,” said Will Brooks. Besides Brooks and his friends, one can see families and kids running around in excitement.
“These markets have positively impacted employment, income and commerce in ways that truly tap the power of the greater Silver Spring community’s diversity” said Valerie Ervin, Councilmember for District 5 in Montgomery County. “In these difficult times, it is more important than ever that Montgomery County remains committed to an environment that supports economic growth and job creation,” Ervin said.
The camaraderie at the market and the airy atmosphere makes it a fun place to visit. You may find books sold at giveaway prices, classic movies that may be hard to find elsewhere and even if you do not get anything of interest, it is possible to meet a new friend, or get a comic relief from vendors using diverse tactics to draw attention.
As the market draws to a close by 4 pm, Djidjo, the owner has the responsibility of keeping it clean and ready for its original mission by Monday morning: A parking lot.