At first glance, the Lee County Flea Market seems just that — an ordinary, eclectic collection of sporadic booths in an overgrown field off of Highway 431.
Under the surface, however, lies the dedication of a family-built business rooted in diversity, loyalty and personal relationships.
When walking by the booths, it is plain to see the wide array of trinkets for sale — from items as mundane as mouthwash to handcrafted home decor.
At the heart of the field, lies a modest office with a handwritten sign adorning the front door. Inside are the masterminds behind the operation: the Jones family.
Rhonda Jones, the matriarch of the clan sits behind an always-full jar of double bubble gum and uses her experiences as a past pre-school director to keep vendors' children from misbehaving — calling them each individually by name.
Husband Barry Jones settled down into the flea market business after traveling as a financial consultant, ending up on Wall Street and working as a high school athletic director for a time. Their son, Ben, quit his job at a bank four years ago to focus his energy on the flea market.
“We think of it as more of a ministry than a business,” Barry said about the most rewarding aspect of running the flea market.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
He cited diversity as an essential aspect of the market community. Diversity drives the place, as the market is filled with people of all different backgrounds, whether that be socio-economic, race, religion or various other demographics.
It's a melting pot of different cultures, where at one table shoppers can get authentic Mexican spiced fruit and stock up on camouflage hunting apparel at the table across from it.
Although the wide array of vendors keeps the customers at the market, loyalty is what brings them back weekend after weekend.
Seventy percent of vendors are regulars, the Jones family said, coming everywhere from Atlanta to Chilton County to claim their tables.
“On a regular weekend, we get 8,000 people on Saturdays, and that number may double on Auburn game day weekends,” Rhonda Jones said. “We like to build relationships to keep people coming back.”
And that they do, as several vendors walked in and shook Barry Jones' hand before calling it a day.
The family-friendly feel began with Rhonda Jones’ mother, Ruth Williams, who started the flea market.
“It began in 1988 across the street with only an acre and a half of land," Rhonda Jones said. "About every five years she would add 100 feet. Bill and Velma Estes, Williams’ friends introduced her and taught her the rules and strategies of the flea market business world.”
A list of rules can be found on their website and is on the door of the office.
There are now 258 tables on the property for vendors to set up shop, as well as sheltered tables that they can reserve. For an outdoor table, it costs $8 a day and for a sheltered one, $17.
What the Jones family does goes beyond money for them. It is the small spread of goodwill, that may be passed on to both customers and vendors. They are giving opportunities to share a specialized skill, a rare find or even a simple memory.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman