East Tennessee flea market is like family


wbir.com-An East Tennessee flea market offers the bargains and rare finds you would expect to find and something more.

The Lenoir City Flea and Antique Market may not be the biggest but it strives to be the friendliest.

"Everybody come and see us. And we'll make them feel at home," Lenoir City Flea Market Co-Manager Russ Borum said.

The managers here met at another flea market.

"All of us together decided we wanted to try it for ourselves," Lenoir City Flea Market Co-Manager Heather Wilson said.

The job is a natural fit for Heather Wilson.

"My grandpa and my grandma when I was very very little did the whole flea market thing. They even had their own flea market. It was called 'Attic Fanatics.' That was a long time ago but we've always been a flea market yard sale kind of family," Wilson said.

Borum said, "As you see, we try to keep things neat and clean and a lot of flea markets are junky. We try to keep everything organized and we're like a family here."

The family includes Russ Borum who sells aroma lamps, tie dye tee shorts, and glassware.

Heather focuses on body piercings and purses.

"We're open Thursday, Friday, Saturday from 9:00 a.m.  to 6:00 p.m.  and then Sunday from noon to 5:00 p.m.," Borum said.

It wasn't part of the business plan but it just so happens that a lot of the people who work there have some sort of disability.

"I would say 90% of our vendors have some type of disability," Wilson said. "We have people with physical disabilities, we have intellectual disabilities, but everybody plays a very important part in this flea market."

Erin is Heather's assistant, helping with physical chores in the store. Josh's special skill is his enthusiasm. He tries to drum up business on the corner waving a sign and showing some dance moves. Everyone pitches in.

"We have Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner here with all of our vendors. We're just down home, try to make all the customers feel welcome and make them feel like members of a family," Wilson said.

The flea market family does fundraisers and collects donations for different charity groups.

"Without the community we wouldn't have a business so it's really important to make everyone feel at home here and to make them feel like we care," Wilson said. "If you don't buy anything you're going to go away feeling like you've just had a visit with your family."

It's a flea market family trying to make a difference and perhaps changing attitudes.

"People in the community are seeing that people with disabilities have something to offer, that we're managing this on our own and so far it's been very successful," Wilson said. "We're little but we're mighty."