Rose City Flea Market opens its doors

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Taftville - posted Mon., Feb. 21, 2011
'Chili Bob' Whatley, of Baltic, demonstrates hand-dipping candles at the Rose City Flea Market in Taftville. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
'Chili Bob' Whatley, of Baltic, demonstrates hand-dipping candles at the Rose City Flea Market in Taftville. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Life has returned to the former site of Sid’s Closeouts in Taftville, once again drawing bargain hunters to the former Ponemah Mill.

The Rose City Flea Market opened for business Feb. 5, and co-owner Bill Auclair said that it’s drawing crowds already. “People are hurting. With the economy the way it is, everybody’s looking for a deal,” he said.

Shoppers browsing the flea market’s offerings on Feb. 19 agreed. “This is the happening place today,” said Keith Partain, of Taftville.

Tables, shelves and racks at the flea market contained a plethora of merchandise of all descriptions: the new, the old, the arcane and the antique. A French provincial dressing table sat next to a row of computer monitors: books and clothes, glassware and furniture, knickknacks and jewelry were arrayed for sale in the 5,000-square-foot space.

Robert “Chili Bob” Whatley, of Baltic, tended his booth in 18th-century garb and demonstrated the process of hand-dipping candles for curious shoppers. Each dip of the dangling wicks into the pot of melted wax builds up a layer and makes the candles thicker, he explained. Nearby hung pairs of his finished candles in cream, barn red and bayberry green.

Auclair and his business partner, Arthur Nason, both of Killingly, acquired use of the building in January. They had been managing a similar flea market in Danielson and were looking to open a place of their own, Auclair said. The space they rented includes the former Sid’s, as well as what was once Clown City.

Through advertisements and word-of-mouth, the pair was able to attract 18 vendors to fill the 34 available spaces. For now, unrented spaces are filled with overflow merchandise from neighboring stalls. In addition, Nason’s collection of vintage cookie jars and Auclair’s sports memorabilia temporarily fill unrented spots.

The flea market also includes an auction hall, said Auclair. “Every week, we have one auction; some weeks we have two,” he said. Thursday is auction night, when featured items may include clothing brought in by wholesalers, or specialty pieces like furniture or antiques.

Nason said that attending auctions and flea markets “has become a new form of entertainment for people” – one that’s relatively inexpensive and fun, whether they buy something or not.

Auclair said that after spending much of his career in the restaurant business, he’s having a blast.

“I love auctioneering,” he said. “I like playing with the people who are bidding. I ask, ‘Is that a bid or are you winking at me?’ It’s fun and it’s a business. You go to work and you enjoy yourself.”

Elvis the crocodile presides over the auction hall as its mascot. The 40-year-old creature, meticulously preserved, originally came from South America, said Auclair.

The flea market is open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Auctions are held Thursday at 7 p.m. and every other Saturday at 5 p.m. The next Saturday auction is Feb. 26.

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