Liberty flea market jump-starts aspiring merchants

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A new indoor flea market aimed at giving budding entrepreneurs a chance to start their own businesses opened last Thursday on Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park.

The 14,000-square-foot Liberty Avenue Flea Market, which takes up the entire block between 109th and 110th streets, has 108 stalls that peddle a variety of items including clothing, jewelry, electronics, cell phones and compact discs.

Stalls start at about $500 a month, expenses included, and are designed to give people lacking the resources to start their own businesses a chance at making it big, said manager Ram Mahadeo.

“It’s a great way to start a business without having to rent an entire store,” he said.

The flea market was the idea of Richmond Hill family practice physician Dr. Phillip Baldeo, who said he decided to open the business after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks claimed the lives of some of his patients and friends and left others unemployed. The Guyanese-born doctor invested $450,000 in the project, with the hope of stimulating the local economy in the post-Sept. 11 downturn.

“A variety store or indoor flea market will not only provide about 120 people with jobs but also create a unique opportunity for the dreaming entrepreneur to start his own business and maybe later to be able to open his own facility in the neighborhood,” Baldeo said.

Customers browsing through the market Friday were impressed. Many said they favored it over the open-air facility at Aqueduct Race Track because of its proximity to public transportation — the A Train stops at its door — and its shelter from Mother Nature.

Area merchants had mixed reactions to the market’s opening in the converted American Bedding and Furniture Co. warehouse, which had been vacant. The market will be open from Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“It’s good and bad,” said Martin Molbegott, who has run a family-owned hardware store across the street from the market for 46 years.

“It’s going to do one thing good for the neighborhood. It will bring people into the area and liven it up,” he said, noting that he made an extra $500 during the flea market’s opening day last Thursday. “What it does do that’s bad is my customers will have a hard time finding parking spots.”

Another merchant across the street from the market who did not want to be identified said he had a “mixed view” of the flea market.

“It will be good for business in the area,” he said. “In terms of parking, it will be difficult.”

Baldeo described the typical flea market customer as a pedestrian and said there is ample parking on the side streets for any increase in vehicular traffic. He said increased foot traffic will more than make up for any problems due to lack of parking.

One group of merchants entirely positive about the market’s opening were the operators of the stalls, who snatched up just about all of the available space by the time the facility opened last Thursday. Most of the merchants are Indo-Caribbeans from Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, though there is no particular ethnic flavor to the merchandise on sale.

Bebi Rasul, of Richmond Hill, left her job as a home-care worker to open a jewelry stall in the market. The immigrant from Guyana ran a clothing boutique in her homeland before coming to Queens in 1994.

“When you leave your country and come here, it’s a new life,” she said. “You start small and then later on you get big.”

Hema Persaud, of Richmond Hill, was laid off from her receptionist job at a Manhattan computer firm following the Sept. 11 attacks. The Trinidad native’s clothing stall is her first foray back into the working world since she lost her job.

Persaud has company. Her sister and sister-in-law leased adjacent stalls in the market and the three got a group rate on the rentals. Of the three, Persaud made the first sale on Thursday morning.

“It felt great,” she said.

Her sister-in-law, Kamala Persaud, who was selling baby’s clothing, praised Baldeo and Mahadeo for giving the little person a chance at success.

“Small people like us who don’t have a lot of money to put out, it gives us a start,” she said.

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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