Thursday, April 26, 2018
Business

Vendors try to cope as demolition begins at Port Richey flea market

PORT RICHEY — Ramesh Patel said he did his best to give the community a place to work and socialize at the USA Flea Market.

As general manager, he was in charge of managing and maintaining the 40-acre property along U.S. 19, where about 70 vendors worked on weekends. He spent almost every weekend, and sometimes his entire week, there.

But after the market was forced to close June 14 after Pasco County officials condemned the structure, demolition began last week to tear it down. And Patel, who purchased it with his company, NAIDIP 19-52 LLC, in 2006, says he has no plans to restart the market.

"We were doing it because ... people were surviving there," said Patel. "They were earning their bread and butter."

Patel thinks the county overreacted in deciding to condemn and tear down the building.

"You don't kill the human just to kill the cancer," he said, "and that's exactly what they did."

The same year Patel bought the market, it was cited multiple times for safety and code issues, but the building's ultimate condemnation came as a result of a recent investigation into an auto sales business. County inspectors designated the building as a fire trap, designating it unsafe.

Pasco County spokesman Doug Tobin wrote in an email that the inspection was part of the county's "high-return enforcement" approach, a move away from a complaint-based to a proactive method to identify high-risk properties and repeat violators.

Susan Waldroupe began shopping at the market in 1991.

During strawberry and blueberry season, shoppers could find her roaming the stalls of the market, looking for fruit. She stuck to the market for its fresh produce, buying everything from watermelons to green peppers there.

Last September, she became the market's "Jerky Lady," renting a table in the market for $18 a day, selling chicken- and beef-flavored jerky.

Waldroupe, 59, said she was drawn to the market because vendors sold unusual items that couldn't be found at stores.

Plus, she said, "I've met a lot of good people that were vendors out there." There was the Glass Etching Lady and the Tin Lady, whom she branded by their products.

The market hadn't been Waldroupe's main source of income, but she was trying to start her own jerky business. She started with eight flavors; now she has 23.

"I was really upset (when it closed). I thought, well what in the world, I just paid my rent," the New Port Richey resident recalled.

David Orr, project manager with JVS Contracting, which is heading up the demolition effort, said when he began inspecting the building, he could understand why it was condemned. There were extension cords everywhere, open electrical boxes and blocked exits.

"I can see that it wasn't worth trying to save," said Orr, who said he also understood that part of the community saw the market as a place to socialize, as well as to make money. "It's almost like a little city."

But it would have only taken a small fire and a frightened crowd, he said, for something to go wrong.

Kathy Bailey remembers walking down the aisles with a cup of coffee in her hand on Saturday mornings, greeting all of her booth mates. After 16 years of selling aromatherapy products, it had become a home away from home for her.

"I looked forward to going to work on the weekends because I got to see the rest of my family," said Bailey, 52, whose main source of income was working her booth, Stinkin Pretty Aromatherapy.

The Spring Hill resident said she began working at the market after quitting her job as a hairdresser, joining her sister there. When she received the call in June letting her know that she had seven days to move from the booth she paid $263 a month to rent, she couldn't believe it.

"We were all real sorry to hear it," said Bailey, who now runs her shop out of the Oldsmar Flea Market. She said it cost about $1,000 to relocate her shop to Oldsmar, to which other USA Flea Market vendors migrated as well. But even now with familiar faces around her, she still feels out of place.

Her business, she said, is suffering as well. She no longer has the same clientele, and she's afraid that when seasonal Floridians start coming back south, they won't be able to find her.

She's hoping that come Christmas time, her wax-dipped teddy bears that sell for $25 each will help her stay in business. She calls them "everlasting air fresheners," achieved by dipping stuffed bears into 185-degree wax.

Bailey said she blames the county, not Patel, for the market shutting down.

"I blame the county a lot, because they shouldn't have stopped inspecting the market 10 years ago," she said. "If you quit inspecting a building that has tenants in it, what do you expect? It's going to be run down."

Comments
Cities turn to private inspectors as construction booms, and problems follow

Cities turn to private inspectors as construction booms, and problems follow

ST. PETERSBURG — With construction booming throughout Florida, private inspectors are increasingly reviewing the work of building contractors. But that has sometimes led to missed code violations and other problems.Now the city of St. Petersburg is r...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Amazon raising price of annual Prime membership to $119

Amazon raising price of annual Prime membership to $119

NEW YORK — Amazon is raising the price of its annual Prime membership fee by 20 percent starting next month. The company said Thursday that Prime members in the U.S. will now pay $119 a year, up from $99, starting May 11 for new members. The new pric...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Almost half of all homes for sale in Tampa Bay are unaffordable for first-time buyers

Almost half of all homes for sale in Tampa Bay are unaffordable for first-time buyers

Times Staff WriterAlmost half of all homes on the market in the Tampa Bay area are unaffordable for many buyers. According to Zillow, 48.7 percent of homes for sale are "high-end --- more than $348,0000 in Tampa Bay -- while just 20.5 percent are "l...
Published: 04/26/18
Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands beats Wall Street forecast in first quarter

Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands beats Wall Street forecast in first quarter

TAMPA — Growing sales at Outback Steakhouse have once again led parent company Bloomin’ Brands to beat Wall Street’s expectations, the latest quarterly report shows.But the Tampa-based restaurant group’s other chains are failing to keep up. Bloomin’ ...
Published: 04/26/18
Focus crossover and Mustang will be only Ford sedans sold in North American dealerships

Focus crossover and Mustang will be only Ford sedans sold in North American dealerships

DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it will shed most of its North American car lineup as part of broad plan to save money and make the company more competitive in a fast-changing marketplace.The changes include getting rid of all cars in...
Published: 04/26/18
Domino’s lifts curtain on ‘pizza theater’ in Lutz

Domino’s lifts curtain on ‘pizza theater’ in Lutz

LUTZ — Domino’s new ‘pizza theater’ store recently opened in Lutz, just outside of the Ballantrae subdivision. The store features the open-concept pizza theater design which offers viewing of the food preparation process.There is also a comfortable l...
Published: 04/26/18
Engaged couple opens chiropractic practice for all ages on W Hillsborough Ave

Engaged couple opens chiropractic practice for all ages on W Hillsborough Ave

TAMPA — Dr. Kaylee Canalungo and Dr. Kace Groff were attending Palmer College of Chiropractic in different states when a mutual friend introduced them. After graduating and working together at a chiropractic office in New York, they are engaged to be...
Published: 04/26/18

Clean Juice gets 3rd spot in Hyde Park Village

Michelle Piniella forecast about another South Tampa Clean Juice location in March, and now it’s official. The healthy, fresh juice concept has secured a lease with Hyde Park Village.The opening date is to be announced this summer as it is currently ...
Published: 04/26/18
Cuban cuisine transformed at Armature Works

Cuban cuisine transformed at Armature Works

DOWNTOWN — Felicia Lacalle says cuban cooking is in her blood as she traditionally learned from her mother growing up. Since then she has perfected her craft finding ways to recreate classic dishes with a modern twist and now she aims to change the C...
Published: 04/26/18
PolitiFact: False claim circulates about Allegiant Air offering 2 free tickets

PolitiFact: False claim circulates about Allegiant Air offering 2 free tickets

The statement"Allegiant Air is rewarding everyone with 2 free plane tickets to celebrate April Aviation Week!"Bloggers, April 22 in a blog postThe rulingContrary to a false claim on a phony website, Allegiant Air is not offering two free tickets in e...
Updated: 5 hours ago