Guest Column: New and seasonal dealers give Alpine Flea Market fresh look

By Tye Hartall

The Alpine Flea Market in Rockford has come alive this winter with the influx of new and seasonal dealers that have added a cultural flair, as well as an international mix.

Always the haunt of collectors, as well as those in search of bargains, The Alpine Flea Market offers a wide variety of goods found nowhere else in Rockford or the surrounding area. There are more than 140 booths, manned by a host of charismatic dealers that offer unusual, one-of-a-kind items.

During the summer, many of these entrepreneurs prefer to set up outside. Prices for an outdoor space are $10/day or $15/weekend. But when the weather turns cold, in late October or early November, many dealers choose to move indoors for winter’s duration. Indoor spaces are $20/day or $35/weekend.

Every weekend, a large selection of antiques and collectibles, books, computers, furniture, jewelry, tools, audio and video equipment, vintage records, coins, clothing, bric-a-brac, and even international fresh produce is available. One can… get a sign made… get a haircut… try Mexican candies… have your picture taken.

Inventory changes weekly as existing dealers bring in new goods, and new dealers are added regularly. Prices, although already quite reasonable, are not always firm, and it’s fun to bargain with the dealers. In fact, most expect it.

English is still the lingua franca, but Spanish runs a close second. Snippets of Hindi,  Arabic, Russian and Chinese can also be heard. It is, indeed, a very cosmopolitan market and a true cross-section of Rockford’s population.

The “cornerstone” vendors that have been there for years are certainly the ones to take credit for the weekly large draw of customers, as well as for the overall success of the flea market. They resupply their booths regularly and keep customers coming back for more, week after week.

But it’s the vibrancy of the new and seasonal dealers, added to these veteran cornerstone vendors, that really make the Alpine Flea Market hum during these cold winter months.

Take Dave Christopher, for example. He sets up outdoors at both Alpine, as well as various stateline flea markets during the summer, but has returned inside to the AFM every winter since its inception 12 years ago.

A resident of Woodstock, Dave commutes weekly to Rockford to display his jewelry and collectibles. He attributes his continued success to his repeat customers. (But really, it’s the quality of his merchandise.)

Nearby, another seasonal dealer, now in his fourth winter at AFM, Arvil Vaughn specializes in vintage military, arrowheads, knives and jewelry. Originally from Tennessee, Arvil’s variety of merchandise and low prices attribute to his seasonal success. Needless to say, his booth is always a popular stop for the collector as well as the curious.

Just down the way from Arvil is Eddie Sitte (who strongly resembles David Spade’s character in the movie Joe Dirt). He is yet another quintessential example of the charismatic Alpine Flea Market dealer.

Usually clad in a camouflage jacket, Eddie deals in a potpourri of items: from pre-owned tools and industrial items to new jeans. His inventory changes weekly, and eager buyers get there early Saturday morning to search through his weekly additions.

New arrivals, Juana Bosquez and her brother Rudy Hernandez, recently opened a booth, specializing in women’s clothing, which has become a very popular spot, indeed. Juana is also a world-class cook and has recently taken over the snack bar as well. Her Mexican cooking will certainly draw followers from far and wide.

Yet, the newest arrivals at the AFM are Dan and Rod Ramos. They’ve already tested the waters there during the summer and have just now opened a booth specializing in computer sales and service.

In conclusion: it’s a real treat—and most certainly an adventure—to visit the Alpine Flea Market on weekends and wander down the numerous aisles. With such a variety of dealers, offering a wide diversity of goods, there’s bound to be something of interest for everyone. It certainly is one of Rockford’s undiscovered treasures.

The Alpine Flea Market is open weekends 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and located at 3291 S. Alpine Road, near the intersection of Alpine and Sleepy Hollow roads. For more information, contact Frank Bridges or Tammy Bronson at (815) 874-4145.

Tye Hartall is a dealer at the Alpine Flea Market, now celebrating his seventh winter season there. He deals in Northwoods antiques and collectibles, Western and outdoor clothing, CDs and NFL team apparel.

From the May 26-June 1, 2010 issue

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