OCEAN CITY- An old Ocean City tradition gone for several years now will get a new life at a new location this summer when the weekly flea market returns to the Worcester Street parking lot downtown.
For decades, the town hosted a huge flea market on the parking lot of the Convention Center on 40th Street, but the tradition died when the parking lot was no longer available because of increased activity at the facility. However, the Ocean City Mayor and Council this week agreed to bring back the flea market at the municipally-owned parking lot on Worcester Street each Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Councilman Jim Hall, who led the effort to bring back the old flea market, said the proposal will benefit everybody involved including the town, which will likely get additional revenue for the often underutilized public parking lot.
“This requires almost nothing from the town,” he said. “And the Downtown Association benefits from the revenue generated by the vendor’s fees. As it stands now, they have practically no means to raise money.”
Councilwoman Nancy Howard approved of the proposal, but requested the elected body be kept abreast of what happens with the weekly event. “I think we need to have a report from them at the end of the season,” she said. “It might not be a bad idea to have them report to us even more frequently.”
Hall said the flea market organizers are sympathetic to the notion the weekly event could compete with other downtown merchants. Hall said for that reason there are strict limitations on the types of merchandize offered at the flea market.
“There will be no new merchandize offered for sale,” he said. “They absolutely do not want to compete with other merchants in the area.”
Mayor Rick Meehan agreed the proposed flea market could cause some friction in the downtown area where merchants wrestle for tourist dollars. “Not all the merchants will be happy about this,” he said.
Meehan also questioned the wisdom of holding the event on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer season, but Hall pointed out the old flea market at the Convention Center was always held on a Saturday with great success. Nonetheless, Meehan wondered if other days of the week might be better suited for the event.
“You might find Tuesday and Thursday mornings might do better,” he said. “Once people get used to the days, it won’t matter what day of the week you hold it during the summer season.”
Other concerns were raised about starting a new program at the Worcester Street lot, which could be part of the town’s long-range plans for the downtown area. A new parking garage is being planned for the downtown area and a newly established program such as the flea market could become difficult to uproot once it is established.
“We have to make sure we pass on to the vendors that they don’t have a vested right to use that area indefinitely,” he said. “We have plans for that lot in the future.”
Hall said there were no unrealistic ideas about the future of the flea market and urged his colleagues to approve it. He said the benefits for the Downtown Association and the town itself could outweigh any perceived problems with the plan.
“Let’s try it for a while and see if it works,” he said. “It’s really as simple an operation as it can be.”
With that said, the council approved the proposed flea market at the Worcester Street parking lot with a unanimous 7-0 vote.
The flea market, which will be overseen by the Downtown Association, will begin on Saturday, May 26 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., with set-up beginning at 6:30 a.m. and break-down starting at 12:30 p.m. The cost for vendors is $10 per parking space. Only handmade items, antiques and traditional flea market items can be offered. For vendor information, contact the Downtown Association at (410) 289-1413.