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Peddler's Mall vendors must leave by Jan. 31

Sports jerseys shimmer from overhead racks. Baggy jeans are piled high on tables.

It took almost four years to build K.C.'s Sportswear into a bustling business at the Peddler's Mall and Flea Market on State Road 60. In four weeks, owner Kyong C. Walker could lose everything.

"All the money I have in this place . . .," Walker said with a sigh. She has been sick to her stomach since hearing the flea market is losing its home in Clayton Plaza.

Walker is among dozens of mom-and-pop vendors scrambling to respond to the news that the Peddler's Mall is being evicted to make way for Burdines-Macy's Furniture and Mattress Clearance Center. The flea market's lease expires at the end of the month.

"I have no place to go," she said. "It's short notice. I have a lot of packing to do."

In some eyes, the news has a silver lining. The furniture retailer will bring a marquee name to the aging shopping plaza, whose other tenants include tile, cabinet and furniture stores.

"This is a better fit," said property manager Jill Strumpf, who is with Bruce Strumpf Inc., which runs the plaza. "We're moving toward a home accessory shopping center."

Peddler's Mall merchants can remain at the plaza until Jan. 31, property managers said. The Burdines-Macy's affiliate hopes to open for business in mid to late February.

"It's a larger facility for us," said Jack Lafay, who manages the furniture store. He also likes the mall's prominent location. "I think we'll have more exposure."

The furniture clearinghouse has outgrown its 40,000-square-foot store next to the Home Depot at the Brandon Crossing Shopping Center on State Road 60. In the new location, it can expand to 55,000 square feet.

A new sign will replace that of the Peddler's Mall, which is missing orange letters. Otherwise, the furniture store plans few improvements.

But before furniture can be moved in, an entire flea market must clear out.

The indoor market sells everything from fine jewelry to T-shirts, dining room tables to designer perfumes. Vendors from around the world liked the high-profile location with rent at a fraction of what other malls charge.

American dreams were made and lost here. Some merchants complained that traffic wasn't what they hoped for and left. But a handful of small businesses found their niche and thrived.

Last weekend, news about the lease termination spread from stall to stall. At midweek, many tenants still were waiting for official notice from the mall's owners.

Vendors fretted about what lies ahead at the end of the month. Some are talking about renting a storefront together. Everyone will sell as much as possible.

"I'm not going to go down," said Nan Bowden, who has sold Asian furniture, trinkets, purses and luggage at the flea market for more than three years. "I'm going to start all over again."

Letitia Stein can be reached at 661-2443 or lsteinsptimes.com.

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