Flea market sells toy cars, strawberries, sense of community

Posted July 03, 2011, at 4:53 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — On the outskirts of Warren and Rockport a tiny sliver of Rockland juts in. It’s not the part of Rockland known for a lobster festival or locally made coffee. It’s an area of town not known for much. In fact, most people don’t know that section of Route 90 is part of Rockland. Aside from a few businesses scattered on the side of the road, it’s just trees and water. No apparent sense of community — which is something Dale Hayward is working on changing while selling a lot of his stuff. Hayward recently set up an indoor flea market next to the highway.

It all started last fall. Diane Green-Hebert, who owns the airplane hangar the flea market landed in, wanted to utilize her building in the summer. In the winter she stores boats, but then the hangar is unused for months. Some of her friends told her it would be the perfect place for a yard sale.

So she tried. She put an ad in the local papers looking for vendors.

But the same question kept coming up: “How many vendors do you have now?” the person would say.

“Well, if you signed up, I’d have one,” Green-Hebert would say.

Nope.

Then Hayward called.

“He’s gung-ho about it,” she said.

He took the operation over for Green-Hebert and now they have about 10 vendors. They have space for about 30. The operation is now four weeks old. Which makes Hayward’s collections about 25 years and four weeks old.

He collects anything.

“Some people call it hoarding, some call it a hobby. I collect everything. There’s not much I don’t,” said Hayward, who is now retired.

His collections make up the majority of the flea market: books, toy cars, records and tools, mostly.

Hayward has big dreams for the hangar. He wants to have a push-cart type of restaurant. Green-Hebert wants to host fundraisers. They already have the Humane Society of Knox County selling their merchandise in a corner. They want more.

“The challenge is to see if we can make this exist,” Hayward said.

Their main difficulty is the lack of vendors. It’s a struggle that’s difficult to see because the hangar is full of tables and not one of them is bare. But as of Saturday morning, only two vendors were in the flea market in person.

One of them was Ruby, of South China, who refused to give her last name.

Ruby is an older lady who has been to two of the flea market’s weekend sales. She sells jewelery she fixes up, strawberries she picks and fudge she bakes to supplement her social security checks.

Ruby is quintessential Maine. In her sun hat, standing next to a bucket of old lobster trap rope she cheerfully yelled at customers as they walked by.

“That’s good stuff. Look how thick it is,” she yelled to a man about her fresh-made fudge as he tried to leave the building. “What? You don’t like strawberries?” then pointing to her green containers of berries.

The man explained to her that he didn’t like fudge and that his neighbor had just brought over a whole box of strawberries for him to eat and he couldn’t take anymore. With this explanation, Ruby let him go.

Ruby isn’t raking in the dough from the flea market. Right now it’s just about paying for her gas from South China to Rockland. The real reason she does it, she said, is for the people she gets to talk to.

“I don’t make much, but I make enough for gas. I come because I don’t like to sit at home alone,” she said.

The hangar has just about what you might expect to find in a flea market. Tom and Jerry glasses are priced at 50 cents. Next to the cups is a bucket of swimming goggles, $3 each or $5 for two, if you need two pairs of goggles. Beanie babies will run you a buck a baby. For $3 a person could walk away with the book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Living with a Cat.”

Ashley Francis, of Washington, ended up grabbing a pair of $1 kids sunglasses for her son. She was on her way to a lawn sale when she saw the huge sign and banners outside, beckoning her to come to the market.

“It’s a good variety,” she said. “I’ve never seen one indoors. I like it. You get out of the heat.”

Apparently, the word got out on the hot Saturday morning.

“We were at a yard sale in Thomaston and we heard people talking about this one,” said Eugene Hayes, of Dover Foxcroft, a veteran yard-saler. As an expert stuff-sifter, he said his only complaint about the new flea market is that is doesn’t have much old stuff. He likes old stuff, such as clocks, beer steins and knives.

What this market brings more than Tom and Jerry drinking cups, Green-Hebert said, is something to do in a place where usually there isn’t.

“There is nothing. There’s no exposure to anybody [here]. There’s businesses all over the place, but there is no community center,” she said. “You have this huge long road and nothing on it.”

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