Southside flea mall closes shop

Published 9:23 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2008

FRANKLIN—A softening economy and fears of further crime are forcing a South Street flea mall to close.

“People are getting scared to buy,” said Phyllis Handshaw, who rents the property from owner Whitt Day and was hosting an “everything must go” sale Monday. “It was a good experience for me, but I am going back to my upholstery business of 30 years.”

Handshaw, who also owns an upholstery shop on Fifth Street, has been running the flea mall for three years out of the two-story brick building at South and Pretlow streets.

She said business was booming when she first opened its doors.

“I opened and by the end of the month I had 34 vendors,” Handshaw said. “You couldn’t even get a parking space. It was a booming business.”

The building had been vacant for eight years before the flea market started and was previously a thrift store, she said.

Handshaw said the flea mall was doing well until several break-ins forced people to vacate their booths.

“People started leaving, even though I went and got a security system,” she said.

Handshaw told the remaining renters that they had to vacate the property, including the newly opened “New 2 U Baby Boutique.”

Willie J. “Bubba” Hall had already taken his shop to its own storefront down the road before the news hit. The clothing store owner said the flea mall’s operating hours were too restrictive for him.

“I couldn’t prosper,” he said. “I couldn’t move further.”

Nearby business people said the flea mall was very busy when it was open.

“I just don’t know what happened,” said Audrey Sanford, manager of Southern Food Stores next door. “It’s on one of the main roads in and out of the city. I feel sorry for them, but these hard economic times have affected a lot of people and a lot of businesses.”

LaQuetta Allen, 25, of Franklin, was one of several passersby to stop at the sale and peruse the many items placed outside the building, including vacuum cleaners, records, furniture and clothing.

“I think it’ll be hard (for the community),” Allen said about the flea mall closing. “She had some nice stuff in there.”

“I guess everyone has to move on now and shop somewhere else,” her grandmother, Odell Allen, added.