Sunshine's Flea Market of NW Florida was born through the tragedies so many faced in the wake of Hurricane Michael.
As a steady flea market vendor at the 15th Street Flea Market in Panama City, Shannon "Shae" Davis waited on pins and needles until the roads from her home in Marianna, FL to the Gulf were reported to be semi-passable. She knew she had to try to make her way through some of the worst of the devastation to see what had become of her little shop. Like so many who couldn't get to back to their homes and businesses yet, she could only pray that something would be salvageable when she got there.
But, that is not all she prayed about. There had been considerable damage to nearly every structure in Marianna, but, if the radio was to be believed, her fellow vendors in Panama City had it even worse. They could very well be in dire need of everything from cash, to food, and clothing, to a place to sleep. There was just no way of knowing yet if any of her comrades were even safe.
Finally approaching the 15th Street Flea Market left her utterly stunned. The extent of the damage to the flea market building was unbelievable. It wasn't just the roof or the parts of the building that were not made of concrete. The whole structure looked ready to crumble to it's foundation.
She clambered over the rubble, intent on seeing what had become of her belongings. She found many of her items strewn all along what had once been the main walkway. When she finally got to her shop, she wished that she had thought to bring better shoes. Glass and splintered debris was everywhere. Her display cases and other fixtures, her furniture and brand new rugs, her pictures and electronics... all of the things she'd spent years acquiring... nearly all of it was soiled or broken beyond saving. And most of her more expensive inventory? I was just... gone.
But, that wasn't the worst of it.
She first saw Jake who, only a few days before, had had a job of handling maintenance duties around the 15th Street Flea Market. She had never seen him look so sad and tired. He told her that he'd been trying to run off the looters as much as he could since the storm.
Later there was Kathy and Jasmine. Shae could plainly see the grief in Kathy's eyes that she was desperately trying to keep under control in front of the girl. Shae had not known them well at the time but, all she wanted to do was give Kathy and Jasmine a big hug and tell them that she'd find a way to help them through this.
Then, separately, Chuck and Barbara turned up. They looked so tired. She would've liked more time to talk to both of them. Neither appeared to want to engage in much conversation, though. And, who could blame them? There was so much to do and most of the tasks were heartbreaking.
Gene and his daughter drove up together. Soon thereafter, it was clear that neither had the time to sort through his old inventory nor the space to house much of his items, even if he could get inside to salvage them. Before they left, Shae asked but, Gene didn't know how is buddy across the hall, "The Tool Man" was. Both could only pray he was alright.
In comparison to many others, Greg actually fared pretty well. No one's attempt to salvage their belongings was easy but, at least he could still get in his shop to do so. Even so, Shae noted that the events of the past few days weighed heavily on his brow.
The other Barbara (the sweet elderly lady who had all the stuffed animals) drove up with some family only to discover that the bus sized hole in the concrete wall along the back of her shop pretty much obliterated any chance she had of getting safely inside. It was clear that most of her belongings were ruined anyway.
At one point Jessica, best known for the coffee she served the sleepy vendors every morning, appeared on site. Shae didn't get a chance to chat with her much, though, because Jessica was on a mission to find something... anything... that would help protect what was left of her house.
Later, Shae couldn't recall if she saw her or not but, Erin had likely been with Jessica on that excursion. Shae smiled sadly thinking of them, knowing that the two girls were inseparable. She wondered about Mr. and Mrs. Willard, Erin's parents, though. How had that sweet couple fared? She also wondered about John and Karen and the CB guy, all of used to work within three paces of one another. She could only pray all were safe.
Anyway, Shae's shop was gone but, in time, she could have set that loss down and found another way to get by. What she couldn't shake, though... what really tore her up... was seeing the utter defeat in the eye of so many these vendors. |
Flea Market vendors, for the most part, are not wealthy. Additionally, many are older or have health issues and/or other problems that gave them little choice, financially, These fellow vendors in PC... Almost all had lost personal property.... Many had suffered damage to their vehicles.... Some didn't even have a home anymore in the storm. Along with the sadnss, there was a question in everyone's eyes. "What do I do know?" It was that loss in their eyes that simply broke Shae's heart.
She had to do something about it.
It was easy to say, "We'll start again somewhere". No one, at the time, probably thought it would actually happen. But, when Shae made up her mind to do just that, it wasn't only the problem of funding that became a challenge. Post Michael, there was no longer a decent sized flea market to be found anywhere in the Florida Wiregrass, from the Gulf Coast to Alabama. The reason for this was that there were very few large structures left standing that didn't need considerable repair work. But, Shae had to find one she could afford if she meant to safely shelter many vendors and customers, long term.
When the old Dollar General building in Cottondale became available, though, it was rather a Godsend! Here was a place, right off US Hwy 231, that had, largely, gone unscathed after the storm! Not only was it within an hour's drive of Panama City, Marianna, Chipley, Dothan and many more towns equally effected by Michael, it also had the capability of housing several indoor "mini shops", similar to what the vendors from the 15th Street Flea Market were used to.
And, there was even a perk that was better than all of that: The location could provide folks central heat and air!!!
So, Sunshine's Flea Market of NW Florida opened it's doors for the first time at 8am on March 1st, 2019. This flea market's highest goal is to serve those in the Wiregrass communities who are still struggling to rebuild by offering them a way to buy, sell, and trade directly with their neighbors. Through doing so, Shae hopes that Sunshine's will become a staple in the area, known for it's unique items, friendly staff, cleanliness, great prices, and fun, family friendly atmosphere.
If you are a flea market lover, you will be most welcome! Sunshine's continues to grow, little by little, each week so, feel free to stop on by frequently so you can check out what kind of new items are on offer!
Prospective vendors, there are many other awesome perks waiting for you on site. Shae and the others can't wait to meet you, show you around, and hopefully recruit you into the Sunshine family!
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to call at 850-352-2135. You may also email Shae at: Shae@sunshinesfleamarket.com
We can't wait to see you there! :)