FLINT TWP. – “It’s more storefront than flea market,” is how Wanda Belton of Grand Blanc describes her business space at the Bristol Torrey Trade Center, 4371 Torrey Road.
Her first business, Raw to Radiant, specializing in organic and raw foods, opened in October, the month after the 10,600 square foot trade center opened. Within four months she’d expanded into an adjacent stall and now runs three businesses after adding a plus-sized clothing and jewelry store called Wannabees and an alterations business called Sew What?.
Seventy percent of the 55 indoor booths at the trade center are filled and management is hoping for 100 percent occupancy by its upcoming Grand Opening Celebration June 25-27, said Steve Manville, general manager. There also are 23 outdoor stalls.
The trade center is owned by brothers Bob and Don O’Reilly. Don has owned the property for 30 years and was looking for something to do with it when a friend who is a big vendor suggested opening a flea market, Bob O’Reilly said, adding that it fit the demographic and the economic climate they wanted.
The spacious, uncluttered barn-like building was built from the ground up next door to a storage business the O’Reillys also own.
“We’re promoting this as a clean, safe environment,” said Bob O’Reilly, who dubbed it upscale resale. “We do have bargains but a lot of it (merchandise) is new.”
Each vendor’s stall is 10 by 10 feet, has electrical outlets and a roll-up steel door similar to those at storage units. Rental rates start at $15 a day and there is a three-day minimum for inside rentals, O’Reilly said.
The adjacent storage facility is convenient for vendors who want to store their inventory.
Bob O’Reilly said the trade center, which is only open on weekends, opened like gangbusters in late September and has enjoyed steady growth but a big challenge is helping customers find it. Though visible from the I-75 freeway, the actual building sits about a quarter-mile off Torrey Road between Bristol and Hill roads, which are the closest freeway exits. Signage has been placed to help guide visitors in. The entrance is roughly across the street from Comcast Cablevision but the building is not visible from the roadway because of trees.
Newcomers who successfully navigate the route to the Trade Center find a variety of vendors selling items including antiques, books, jewelry, art, cosmetics, produce, glassware, Avon, Miche Bag customized purses, women’s clothing, knickknacks, used tools, spices, scented candles, custom pick-apattern blankets, used computers, vacuum cleaner repair and professional photography. Dan Ragan of Flushing opened Ragan’s Custom Leather in October, moving from a flea market on Dort Highway.
“My business has tripled,” he said. “It’s been good down here.” He hand carves leather goods including belts, bracelets, gun holsters, rifle slings and key chains.
During the trade center’s Grand Opening celebration, owners are planning to offer Antiques-Roadshow style free appraisals by Mike Gaylord of Everything Classic on 1470 WFNT and possibly other radio station remote broadcasts. Tentative plans also include vendor specials and food and maybe pony rides and a bounce house for children, Bob O’Reilly said.
The trade center has free admission and free parking in more than 200 parking spaces. Operating hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Sunday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.