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Charlottetown flea market finds a way through pandemic

Wenda and Glenn Pitre have been running a flea market in Charlottetown for more than five years. This summer, they re-located the sale from the Sherwood Business Centre to Simmons arena to better comply with public health directives during the coronavirus pandemic.
Wenda and Glenn Pitre have been running a flea market in Charlottetown for more than five years. This summer, they relocated the sale from the Sherwood Business Centre to Simmons arena to better comply with public health directives during the coronavirus pandemic. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — After a shut down for COVID-19 and a change in venue to comply with public health requirements, the Charlottetown Flea Market is back on track.

Baked goods, antiques, art and household goods were displayed throughout the rink floor, and gates and ropes guided people around the tables.

Kelsey Hubley has always enjoyed shopping at the flea market, this summer she decided to try standing on the other side of the table to earn some cash for school in the fall. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Kelsey Hubley has always enjoyed shopping at the flea market, this summer she decided to try standing on the other side of the table to earn some cash for school in the fall. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Brigid Milway and her daughter, Midge, were checking out watches at Stanley Coles’ tables. Milway runs a vintage shop in Halifax and was picking up some 1980s digital watches.

“(I enjoy) the nostalgia, the excitement people get when they connect with something from when they were younger,” she said.

Behind the table, Coles has been collecting watches for years as a hobby.

“You got all these watches you gotta start selling some of them. I’ve over 1,000 at home,” he said.

Budding businessman Tyson Rafuse, CEO of Bathtime Delights, was across the aisle. The 11-year-old was with his mom, Desire Cable, a full time farmer near Souris.

Tyson Rafuse and mom Desiree Cable sell Tyson's bath bombs and more at the Charlottetown Flea Market Sunday. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Tyson Rafuse and mom Desiree Cable sell Tyson's bath bombs and more at the Charlottetown Flea Market Sunday. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The youngster started making bath bombs as a Young Millionaires project. He has since expanded, taking the business online and adding more products and scents like monkey farts, fruit loops and blue raspberry.

“There’s a lot of chemicals out there, we just wanted to make bath time a bit more natural,” said Cable.

Antique vendors were also scattered throughout the market, each with his or her own niche.

“I like art deco stuff and retro and never pass up a chance to buy it,” said John Darte.

John Darte sets out some items at the flea market Sunday, he has been selling antiques for more than 50 years. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
John Darte sets out some items at the flea market Sunday, he has been selling antiques for more than 50 years. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A sign from the double-decker tour buses that used to tour P.E.I. occupies the centre of his table on a recent Sunday.

Darte, who plans to keep going until he’s 90, is a 52-year veteran of antique sales. He sells a variety of items, “country stuff, primitives, decoys, oil paintings,” he said, but likes primitive and folk art items the best.

Frequent shopper Liam Kearney passed by with a model airplane from the early 1950s. He and Darte enthuse over the find. Kearney is pleased with the flea market’s new set-up.

“I’ve always preferred the rink set-up, there’s more space,” he said.

Nearby, Claude Arsenault is showing a Victorian-era piece of advertising to a potential customer. The cabinet featured a lush picture of a lady and would have been used to display products.

Claude Arsenault fluffs up some linens on his tables at the flea market Sunday. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Claude Arsenault fluffs up some linens on his tables at the flea market Sunday. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Arsenault’s cabinet is going for $400 right now, but Darte figures it would have fetched upwards of $800 in years past, back when trends were different.

Customers are getting selective, said Darte.

“Furniture doesn’t sell like it used to,” he said.

Antique seller Stuart Graves has noticed the decline as well.

“Nothing’s a great seller these days,” he said, but the 55-year veteran of antiquing plans to stay at it.

“It’s kind of in the blood. You can’t get rid of it,” said Graves.

This summer, Graves is noticing the lack of tourists, both at the flea market and at his shop in North Tryon, Back Home Antiques and Collectibles, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Joy Gallant recycles calendars, greeting cards and frames to create unique gifts. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Joy Gallant recycles calendars, greeting cards and frames to create unique gifts. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The market itself has had to move from the Sherwood Business Centre to Simmons arena to better comply with public health regulations.

Wenda and Glenn Pitre started up the Charlottetown flea market in November 2015. The market at the North Riverr Rink location had closed down and Glenn, a longtime vendor, missed it.

So the Pitres bought the tables from the former market, made a few phone calls to their fellow vendors and opened the doors at the Sherwood Business Centre - the former Ellis Bros. Shopping Centre.

At the Simmons rink on Sunday, Wenda was clad in blue gloves, a fabric mask and a T-shirt that said “keep one cow distance”. She was kept hopping ensuring the flea market stayed pandemic-safe.

Roger Collette rearranges some little spoons he has for sale at the Charlottetown Flea Market - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Roger Collette rearranges some little spoons he has for sale at the Charlottetown Flea Market - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

In between welcoming visitors to the market by encouraging them to use the hand sanitizer and wiping down the ATM, Wenda made announcements every 10 minutes reminding everyone to practise social distancing.

“COVID has changed the way everyone does things,” said Wenda to a visitor as they rubbed hand sanitizer into their hands.

Zella Beaulac has been making and selling flower arrangements for around 20 years.

Zella Beaulac has been making and selling flower arrangements for 25 years. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Zella Beaulac has been making and selling flower arrangements for 25 years. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Beaulac has emphysema and can’t wear a mask for long, so she appreciated the Pitres’ pandemic precautions.

“It’s great that they do the social distancing.”

Dianne Gormley agreed.

“The rules are great,” she said.

Gormley has been selling vintage goods at the flea market for around five summers.

“I’m enjoying every minute of it,” she said. “I work all week; this is my day of rest.”

Irene Dawson has been greeting flea market shoppers at the door for years. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Irene Dawson has been greeting flea market shoppers at the door for years. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Alison Jenkins is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government.

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