Video: Family-owned flea market brings community to Jackson fairgrounds

By Cari Phillips

Jackson residents braved rainy weather and filed into covered tents filled with items of every size, color and shape on the weekend of March 4–6.

Friendly Franks Flea Market is a once a month wonder planted inside the Jackson Fairgrounds Park.

Vendors offer anything from handmade goods, jewelry, purses, socks and candles to trinkets of all kinds. Several vendors bring in their homemade goodies including breads, cookies, candies and snacks. Tables overflow with unique items unavailable in major chain supermarkets. A leather belt vendor hand stamps names or inscriptions right in front of customers.

“We’ve been here a year and a half and have met a lot of nice people,” said Rita Hamilton, flea market vendor and owner of Molly’s Sweet Shop. “We’ve been doing craft shows and farmers markets for about 15 years. Being self-employed, you’re your own boss. You have to work hard and you get to go to places you like to see.”

Hamilton said she likes the community aspect of Friendly Franks Flea Market and enjoys getting to know people.

“It’s a great place to come,” Hamilton said. “Lots of good buys.”

Patsy Gooch, vendor and owner of Glass Creations, said she loves working with the vendors and getting to know the great people who work with her. Gooch travels to craft shows and farmers markets all over the state to sell homemade candles and mosaics and said she enjoys the atmosphere Friendly Franks offers.

The market began more than 20 years ago.

“It’s a family-owned business,” owner Peggy Adams said. “My father started it and when he passed away it was my mother’s and then when she passed away it became mine and my sister’s. Some of these vendors have known me for years.”

Booths feature a variety of items from which to choose and cater to most hobbies and tastes. The loud ambiance of the buildings does not stifle conversation between vendors and old friends. Families mill about from table to table and search through the baskets of jewelry and boxes of toys. Both new items and antiques are sold throughout the flea market.

Some specialty vendors travel for miles each month to come to Friendly Franks. Kenny and Gaye Ann Bloyd travel 120 miles from East Prairie, Mo., each month to sell their pure, unheated and unfiltered honey, which is rich with nutrients and taste.

Friendly Franks hosts more than 200 vendors each month. Several of the vendors agree that the community feel of the flea market is their favorite part about Friendly Franks. Some, like the Bloyds, have been coming to the same spot for more than a decade, and continue to meet new faces.

“We’ve seen kids grow up here,” Adams said. “They were sleeping underneath their mom’s table and now they’re working here. But as the economy has gotten bad it’s taken a toll on them. A lot of them are elderly and this is their income. It’s hard to compete with Wal-Mart.”

Adams showed excitement about more Union students coming to shop at the flea market.

“I’d love to see the Union group out here,” Adams said. “We have a clothing vendor that really caters to the college-age group, and they’re coming back. So we’re excited about that.”

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.