CHARLESTOWN — In the parking lot at the General Stanton Inn, cars with Tennessee, Louisiana, California, and West Virginia license plates sit next to others from closer to home. This weekend flea market, one of the largest in the Northeast, attracts a diverse crowd.
Janice Falcone, who owns both the inn and the flea market, sees the event as a boost for businesses throughout the Charlestown area.
“My people go to the Washington Trust next door, they go to restaurants, they go to the beach,” she said. “I have people stay here just to go to the flea market.”
Now in its 49th year, the flea market opens in late April and runs every weekend until October. Sundays are usually the busiest, attracting up to 1,500 people. On this Saturday, it was quieter, and visitors were taking their time browsing the merchandise.
Angela Valente of Westerly was selling jewelry she makes from stones that have healing properties. Her granddaughter, Serendipity, not yet two years old, was serving as her assistant.
“Everything I make has a healing benefit to it,” she said, standing under one of the coveted shade trees. “I usually do pretty well.”
Across from Valente is Frank and Bev “Corrente’s Collectibles” stand, in a spot they’ve claimed for the past five years. Sitting in a lawn chair under an engraved sign that reads “In rust we trust,” Frank, from Exeter, said that he and Bev enjoy making a little extra money and chatting with visitors.
“We’ll have customers that come by and they say ‘Oh my grandmother used to have that.’ And they get it and every time they see it, they think of their grandmother,” he said.
At another collectibles stand run by Doug and Laine Dyer, Marc Vakassian, his wife Stacy and children Charlie and Rachel were checking out the merchandise. The Westerly family has been here before. Charlie discovered comic books on his last visit, and Rachel is into the bling.
“My daughter likes the jewelry,” Vakassian said, glancing at the offerings at the Dyers’ stand.
Dyer, of Old Lyme, said he had been selling at the market for 8 ½ to 9 years. He was luring customers with deals on some items.
“I do stuff I find along the way — furniture,” he said before turning to help a customer buying an old tray.
Flea market shopping is a more laid back alternative to malls and big box stores. There’s as much chatting as there is buying, something both the vendors and their customers say they enjoy.
“It’s friendly and fun. It’s a different experience here. It’s a lot more one to one,” said Elysia Bagley of the “Frills Gallery,” who also has a store in Watch Hill. “You really get to help people find what they’re looking for — or something they’re not looking for,” she said with a smile.
Maizie and Michael Grove of Narragansett sell vintage clothing, much of it from the ’60s. Maizie confessed to having a particular weakness for pretty, well-made clothes, which she collects and wears herself. Each piece eventually finds a buyer.
“You just have to put it out in the universe,” she said.
For those who are a little hungry or could use a frozen lemonade, Anthony Hall from Providence and his young assistant, Makayla Bavassa, run a food truck.
As Bavassa serves a customer, Hall sits next to a very large box of raw potatoes.
“We make fresh cut fries,” he said.
The flea market at 4115 Old Post Road is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays with free parking on Saturday and a $2 parking charge on Sunday. Sales spaces can be rented from $20 to $35 per day, and tables are free for non-profit groups.