Saturday, September 22, 2018

Former carpet dealers find new careers launching a flea market

Carlisle Township Exterior July 2010

The exterior of the soon-to-open Carlisle Township Indoor Flea Market.

The recent economic downturn hit Lorain County, in northern Ohio, pretty hard. Unemployment went up, construction went down, and several companies laid off workers. The Value City furniture and department store closed two years ago, and six months after that, Tomaric Drapery and Flooring shut its doors. But in those closings, the seeds for a new business were sown.

Craig and Laura Brabander owned Tomaric, a 50-year-old family business. But they had to close their doors after running it for 15 years. “A lot of our business was new homes, carpeting and window treatments,” says Laura Barbander, “and we had to close about a year and a half ago. With the economy around here, the housing industry was really bad, and a lot of our business was new homes.”

She describes a local economy with the rug pulled out from under it. “It’s a domino effect. Suppliers that supply that industry are going out of business. There are so many carpet and window treatment stores around the area that have gone out of business, and a lot of businesses that went along with them, too, unfortunately.” It was not easy to close the home improvement operation. “You just reach a point where you just have to make the decision,” she says.

But at least the Brabanders were able to go out with class. “We didn’t close our doors and leave any customers stranded,” Laura says. “We had a couple people that we had deposits. We refunded their deposits, and we did some work for them after we closed just so that they could have what they wanted. We did it very fair and on the up-and-up. No one was mad at us.”

To make ends meet, the Brabanders went to work for a relative. “My sister-in-law is an auctioneer, and we worked at her auctions,” says Laura. “We’ve been going to auctions for years, and for 15 years we’ve been selling antiques and collectibles on eBay, so we really know about the collectible market.”

Carlisle Township Market organizers July 2010

Market owner Ron Matcham (left) with managers Laura and Craig Brabander.

Meanwhile, local businessman Ron Matcham was eying the shuttered Value City location, across the street from the plastics company he owns. He needed more space for storage, and picked up the old Value City property.

As Brabander tells the story, “He originally bought it because it’s right across the street from his business, which is Quality Blow Molding. He needed some room for storage. After he bought it, he thought, ‘this is a shame to not put this to use for something other than storage.’ ”

Matcham is a friend and business acquaintance of Laura’s brother in law. “When Ron was looking for some managers, my brother-in-law thought about us,” she says, “and so we met with him, and it just seemed to be a perfect fit.”

The Brabanders are putting their retail experience together with their longtime interest in antiques and collectibles as the market managers of the new Carlisle Township Indoor Flea Market. Scheduled to open Aug. 20, the market will feature booths in sizes from 9 feet by 12 feet to 9 feet by 15 feet. Corner spaces and bigger booths are available. Prices start at $15.75 per day, which includes electricity and wifi. The market has hosted a vendor’s open house, and over 100 vendors have expressed a serious interest. Several news sources have reported on the new market.

The grand opening will include a DJ as well as a classic car show with trophies and free food for anyone who brings their car in. Other attractions are in the works. Mobile food vendors will be outside to start. Future plans will include a snack bar, a ’50s-style diner, and outdoor booths in the spring.

“This area really needs something like this,” says Brabander. “There’s a lot of people out of jobs, a lot of places have closed. It’s a perfect time for a market because people who have been out of work can open a space, buy some newer items and do resales. I think it’s going to be a good draw for the area.”

Carlisle Township Flea Market interior July 2010

The market, a former furniture and department store, has 192 vendor spaces and room for another 100 beyond that.

Photo credits, with thanks: Laura Brabander and the Chronicle-Telegram of Elyria, Ohio.

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