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10/3/2004

Bobbing for bargains

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — The city’s two largest flea markets have both relocated recently, and the winners appear to be the city’s bargain hunters.

Front Range Flea Market has moved into the former home of the Roll-O-Rena at 1201 S. Sunset St. and changed its name to Front Range Mercantile.

Tables to Teacups’ simply moved across the parking lot, into Front Range Mercantile’s old space at 1420 Nelson Road.

The relocations could attract the attention of shoppers from well beyond the city’s borders.

“People from Denver, to go to one flea market, would maybe drive up here two or three times a year,” said Marlena Toohey, owner of Tables to Teacups. “With two big ones to visit, and the one in Lafayette to stop at along the way, people might come up here once a month.

“There’s really no competition between the three of us because there’s too much stuff out there. The more the merrier.”

The Lafayette Flea Market is located at 130 E. Spaulding.

The move by Tables to Teacups is the more dramatic of the two, with the store more than quadrupling it area to 26,000 square feet. Front Range’s total space decreased slightly; it’s now 21,000 square feet. But both Toohey and the owners of Front Range Mercantile are pleased with their new spaces.

“Our sales floor is about the same as it was over there,” said Vicky Andrew, who co-owns the 15-year-old business with Marj Sater. “We decreased our warehouse. We made our warehouse more efficient, or at least we’re trying to.”

Being able to buy the building was the incentive for moving to the old roller rink, Andrew said. And for Tables to Teacups, snatching up the larger space was a no-brainer.

“They wanted (to move), and as soon as (the space) came on the market we jumped on it,” said Toohey, who runs the business with her two sons and a daughter-in-law. “We had people contacting us six months ago, knowing they’d have to wait six months to open their booth.”

Tables to Teacups opened three years ago as a consignment shop, but over time started renting booth space to outside vendors.

The company will continue its consignment business at the new place, but while the old location had about 20 booths, the new one will have about 80.

Front Range has about 87 dealers, some operating out of booths and some renting shelf space. The company continues to sell new furniture, too, which it buys directly from manufacturers.

Despite the decline in total square footage, Front Range’s new space actually appears bigger.

“It seems bigger to me — more stuff anyway,” said Jennifer Price, who was in the store last week shopping with her sister, Michelle Anderson, and her son, Clayton.

Andrew and Sater have installed new lighting in their new place, and removed — somewhat regrettably — the disco ball that was enjoyed by so many roller skaters over the years. They kept the disc jockey booth, however, and converted it to an office.

“We’ve had really good response from our customers,” Andrew said. “About 90 percent of our customers have said they like it; they think it’s an improvement. The other 10 percent have said they like the old place because it was comfortable.

“We’re hoping that someday this place will be comfortable.”

The new lighting makes the place a lot brighter, and the wide aisles allow for leisurely browsing.

“Basically this building was just a dark building,” Sater said. “The windows were painted; I don’t even think people knew there were windows in here.”

Both of the stores have added new twists above and beyond the home furnishings, antiques and knickknacks.

At Front Range, Susan Nemcek, the owner of Small Circle Imports, will be operating a coffee bar. At Tables to Teacups, Toohey is renting booth space to a man who does “birth chart readings.”

“If we can do batting cages, we can try something like that,” Toohey said.

Batting cages?

Indeed, in former warehouse space in the back of the building, there are two batting cages set up: one for baseball and the other for softball.

The cages are called “John’s Upper Deck Batting Cages.”

“You’ve got to put that in there,” Toohey said as she wiped a tear. “My husband (John) just died six weeks ago, and this is his kind of his thing.”

The cages will be operated by Greg Riddoch, a former manager of the San Diego Padres who is working in the Texas Rangers organization.

Riddoch lives in Longmont and originally became acquainted with Toohey as a consignment seller in her store.

She said Riddoch is planning to retire at the end of this baseball season and will operate the batting cages full-time.

“While the kids can be back here for 30 minutes, the adults can be out front shopping,” said Toohey.

Anyone who has driven around Longmont on a Saturday morning knows that this is a town that loves to hunt for bargains. Now, with two large flea markets to wander through, along with several other smaller, quaint shops, the options for the thrifty just improved.

“I think they’re very savvy, they’re very value-oriented,” Sater said of her store’s customers. “I think they’re in here looking for Pottery Barn-type items at mercantile prices.”

There’s something therapeutic, too, about slowly wandering the aisles looking at antique bicycles, collectible glassware, African masks and a 96-year-old copy of “The Coloradan.”

“We hear that all the time,” Sater said. “This is their therapy.”

“You hear a lot of, ‘Oh, Grandma had that,’” Andrew said, grinning. “Or you hear a lot of older people saying, ‘Oh I threw that away,’ or, ‘I should have kept that.’”

Most people are probably like Price. They don’t do all their shopping for furniture or home decor items at flea markets, but part of being a savvy shopper is grabbing a deal when you can.

“I still go to regular stores,” Price said. “Now, would I come in here first before I went there? The answer is yes.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.