A few bad apples have spoiled a 25-year tradition in North Kamloops.
For a quarter century, the Northills Shopping Centre has allowed vendors to gather on their parking lot every Sunday from April to October for a flea market. But that’s all over with now.
After discussions among mall managers and owners, they’ve decided to cancel the event. The reason, said mall operations manager Christina Newton, is that certain vendors have become unruly.
The mall does not allow vendors to sell new items, plants, food or food products because it competes with mall tenants. But some vendors just won’t comply, said Newton.
“We had quite a few occasions (last year) where we had to call RCMP because of altercations out there,” she said. “A lot of memos went out last year and we really tried to nip it in the bud and resolve things, but unfortunately it’s continued.”
Mall staff also had to deal with garbage left behind — including old furniture — and vehicles parked on top of landscaping along Vernon Avenue.
Complaints from neighbouring senior residential complexes about noise also had a bearing on the decision, said Brenda Prevost, executive director of the Centre for Seniors Information, which shares responsibility for the market with various other charities.
However, Newton said she’s received only one such complaint and that wasn’t part of the cancellation.
“I have heard the rumour, but that’s definitely not where the issues are stemming from,” said Newton.
The mall is not actually in charge of the flea market. That responsibility is shared among small non-profit organizations in town. Each week a different group hosts the market and charges $5 to $6 per vendor.
For some charities, it provides a much-needed boost to fundraising.
The Centre for Seniors Information, which is based in the mall, collected $3,000 by hosting three events last year.
Prevost said the loss will be felt.
“We really don’t want to see the flea market go under because some organizations rely on that.”
But charities don’t have the means to control unruly vendors, some of whom have been there since the beginning and now feel a sense of entitlement and refuse to pay the fee, said Newton.
“Some of the vendors I think kind of felt a bit of ownership that they could set the rules,” said Prevost. “I understand totally why Northills Shopping Centre is doing this.
“They were donating that space so people have to responsible and realize when they’re getting something for free they have to respect it.”
Low income residents and the community as a whole will also feel the loss, said Terry-Lynn Stone, executive director of the Kamloops Brain Injured Association, whose clients often take advantage of the good deals the flea market offers.
“It’s always a loss when you lose something that’s been traditional for a long time and people have come to look forward to it,” said Stone.
Newton agreed, saying it’s not unusual to see hundreds of people in the parking lot on Sundays, many of them making it part of their routine after church.
“It’s really unfortunate, it’s gone on for a lot of years and we wanted to provide that space for them to do that for the community support,” she said.
Prevost said she’s been trying to find an alternative site — Brock Mall has expressed interest — but the challenges seem overwhelming.
“If there are other organizations that are interested in trying to negotiate to work something out, I’m more than happy to hear from them.”