Albemarle council receives suggestion for two outdoor markets

Theodore Williams first opened his open-air flea market at the old Eastland mall site in Charlotte in 2015. After many successful years and more than 200 vendors the market shut down earlier this year when its lease with the city expired.

Wanting to both capitalize on his experience as a special events coordinator, Williams, an Albemarle resident, came before the city council Monday night with the proposal of creating two outdoor markets in the city — an open-air market on weekends on a portion of the Wiscassett property near Salisbury Avenue and a night market downtown during warmer months.

“I see Albemarle as a place needing a flea market,” he told council.

Establishing the markets would provide numerous benefits to the city, he said. It would create communal spaces for people to come together, provide stability for his former vendors, many of whom were displaced after the Eastland market closed, and create job opportunities for people in need of work. Roughly 50 people were employed by the various vendors, he said, at his Charlotte market.

“As the city grows, I think a flea market here would be totally ideal,” Williams said, noting it could attract people from across the county and the region. “I think it would just be a beautiful accommodation for the folks living in Stanly County.”

He told council the open-air market, where he plans to have more than 100 vendors, would be on Saturday and Sunday from around 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The night market, which would be along Depot Street and have around 40 to 50 vendors, would be open at least once a month on Saturday nights from around 6-11 p.m. Williams envisions including food trucks and having local bands perform at the sites.

Businesses would pay $15 to get a spot along Depot Street for the open-air market — a similar model Williams incorporated with his Charlotte market.

He said the night market would fit into the city’s plans to revitalize and expand the downtown area.

Williams, who is originally from Guyana, acknowledges that while night markets are not typically seen in North Carolina or the United States, they are quite common in other countries.

“These are the kind of things I do,” he said. “I work very hard to do things for my community and this is my passion.”

The infrastructure for the markets would be erected beforehand each weekend and then taken down after.

The city’s planning department has been working on concept layouts for both markets. For the open-air market near Salisbury Avenue, Williams has secured an agreement to utilize at least 250 relatively vacant parking spaces in the vicinity. Staff members are still working on specific details for the night market, such as total number of blocks that will need to be to closed off.

“I think it’s a pretty neat concept, honestly,” said planning director Kevin Robinson. “I can’t think of anything in Stanly County that’s like that.”

The next step in the process is for planning staff to come back to council with a specific proposal for the night market early next month. The open air market at Wiscassett, Robinson said, will be dependent on council and whether it has other plans for the site.