Flea Market Culture

One of the big differences we noticed when we got down to S. Texas this year relates to Goodwill retail stores and the nature of charity.  To be clear, not just Goodwill; the idea of donation & well as the “reduce, reuse, recycle”reduce-reuse-recycle culture that we found much more prevalent in the Midwest.

When we decided to buy a home here in South Texas we made an initial trip to several local Goodwill stores.  We thought we’d pick up a few common household items; things that would have been easily found in Wisconsin at Goodwill, St Vincent’s or one of the other resale shops there.  What we discovered was that those branches of the same charities here in the Rio Grande Valley are big on clothing, but carry very little else. In Milwaukee, I’d venture a guess to say that a good 1/3 or more of the stores were devoted to furniture, housewares, appliances, bicycles, you name it.  In the stores we visited initially we could hardly find any of those sorts of items and even books were scarcely to be found.  And I know that lots of people read — so if nothing else I expected to find more books for sale at the stores.

That prompted a day spent visiting every Goodwill store we could find in the lower Rio Grande Valley.  They were all the same.  And the absence of the sort of stuff that everyone accumulates in their life has been on my mind for a while now.

20170305110400658What we don’t have in the Upper Midwest — at least not to the degree found here — are flea markets.  I could name a dozen of them within an hour’s drive of Los Fresos.  We have only frequented one of them with any regularity — the flea market called DonWes — located near the communities of Donna and Weslaco. It’s not the biggest, nor the smallest.  There are numerous stalls that cater to RV needs.  And it’s a friendly and free flea market (some of the others charge for parking or admission) .

We’ve not made a trip to DonWes this season and it was time to do so on a pleasantly warm Sunday.  We found a lot of the things we would have expected to see at St. Vincent’s, or Goodwill — and I suspect that those stores get scouted by flea market vendors for their merchandise! The flea markets get a lot of customers.  Parking lots are jammed and the atmosphere is what you’d expect: congenial, with food and music, and lots of things for sale at prices that vary from bargains to rip-offs.  Two years ago we bought a replacement recliner for our coach — the price was good, the product has served us well.  We also bought a couple t-shirts and a clay pot.  We aren’t big on Flea Markets in general but when we’ve wanted something that seemed appropriate (knowing the range of vendors) we haven’t hesitated to take a drive and see what was available.

The reality of life in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is that you have a lot of seniors, a lot of RV’ers, a lot of people looking for bargains.  I know I am sufficiently out of touch about prices that I’m the last person to judge the value of flea market purchases.  A certain bunch of them you can find as new purchases of lesser quality materials at all the flea markets, at Harbor Freight, and  Surplus Stores around the country.  I’ve seen it all before.

20170305113224660Oh, there’s the thrill of the hunt, for sure.  If you’re looking for something particular what more excitement could you have than dozens of stalls to rummage through in search of just that one thing you are looking for.  If that’s you “thing.”  It’s not ours.  Neither of ours.  We are both buyers.  When we really ‘need’ something we go someplace and we buy what we need.  If we don’t ‘need’ something we don’t go.  We get no kick out of shopping.  Lots of people do.


All the more power to them.  And no matter what you want you stand a chance of finding it at DonWes.  There are shoppes where you can order sunscreens for your RV — they make them on the spot — custom sizes, to order, at reasonable prices.  You can find jellies and jams too.  And “Real Wisconsin Cheese” — but after reading the labeling on some of the “real Wisconsin cheese” I discovered it was made in Ohio.  And the variety of product wasn’t very impressive. For that matter the vendor wasn’t that interested in telling me about his product — but hey — it was a long day and maybe he was tired.  We tried some of the custom roasted coffee for sale.  It was OK and the price was high.

What I’m saying is that flea marketing in S. Texas is a business.  Peg thought it was more like a circus atmosphere — which to her is not a good thing.  I figure it’s a fun couple hours of entertainment — if that’s all I’m looking for when I go then I’m bound to leave happy and fulfilled.  The whole environment of a flea market is very much an acquired taste.  Some people love it. Others hate it. Some of us are ambivalent.

So — go if it’s your thing.

Thanks for stopping and I’ll be here to chat again tomorrow. Why not stop and say hi!


4 thoughts on “Flea Market Culture

  1. Same is true for Florida…although, here it’s a pretty big market and is covered over so you can shop in inclement weather. Prices are not that big of a bargain, especially the clothes you can find at Goodwill. You can almost buy new clothes for the prices they’re asking. I have found furniture type items are best found through Craig’s List.

    The other thing that is popular here, which I generally avoid but it falls into the same category…garage sales. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah — I’m not into any of that stuff, and it’s not like we patronize ANY place all that much anymore — we have most all of what we need. It’s the odd bit nowadays that we go shopping for — or a replacement for something that can’t be repaired. Peg has taken to buying more clothes at Goodwill in recent years though… for futzing around in the RV it’s not like she needs a basic black dress or lots of cocktail frocks. 🙂 Life does get simpler as you get older, right? 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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