By EMMALEE C. TORISK
This past Wednesday wasn’t like most at Four Seasons Flea and Farm Market.
Subzero temperatures had driven a majority of the 200 indoor vendors, some from as far away as Cleveland or Pittsburgh, to cancel. The few who elected to tough it out arrived late with their wares, then packed them up early. A water pipe in the 43,000-square-foot building froze.
“I’m responsible for a lot of things, but not the weather,” said Carol Parslow, manager. “It’s been brutal here the last few days.”
Not much stops Four Seasons, 3000 McCartney Road, from operating year-round, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Wednesdays and Sundays. Not even the devastating fire that destroyed the flea market’s old main building — and everything inside of it in under an hour on June 5, 2008 — interrupted business.
The fire was on a Thursday. Four Seasons was open, as usual, on Sunday.
“We never missed a minute,” Parslow said. “There was never any question. The thing was, ‘Oh well, let’s build a new one.’”
It took about a year and a half to rebuild after the fire that started in a meat compressor left nothing but “crinkled, wrinkled steel” of the former airport hangar built in the early 1920s, Parslow said.
The flea market stayed open the entire time.
Parslow explained that she felt a responsibility to the vendors, many of whom count on their sales at Four Seasons to make a living, to reopen. She should know; she sold women’s clothing and accessories there from the day it opened in 1991 until about 10 years ago, when she became the “temporary” manager. Mary Scarberry, another former vendor, is the assistant manager.
“We try to make it like a family atmosphere. We do watch out for each other,” Parslow said. “You’ve got to care about people. It really is a big community.”
This community gets even bigger in the summer, when dozens of concessionaires and several hundred vendors line both sides of the flea market’s 13 outdoor aisles. Still others fill the three open-air pavilions, which stock goods that correspond with the seasons: from budding spring flowers to tomato and pepper plants, from homegrown produce to fall mums and shrubs.
The 100-acre property on U.S. Route 422 just east of the Lincoln Knolls Plaza had an extensive history before it was purchased by owner Dennis Barr in 1990.
From 1921 to 1951, the property was known as Bernard Airport — the largest airport between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, which closed in part because of the Youngstown Municipal Airport in Vienna. In its next life, the property became Bargain Port, a discount department store. At Bargain Port, Parslow recalled, shoppers could buy an assortment of items — toilet paper, paint, a radio — under one roof.
It may have been a sign of things to come. Regardless of the season, shoppers can find practically anything they’re looking for at Four Seasons — and, if not, the merchandise changes weekly. Flea markets aren’t just made up of broken, secondhand goods either, Parslow said.
“People think it’s all dusty, dirty, rusty stuff. That’s the furthest thing from the truth,” Parslow said, explaining that today’s flea markets consist of a pretty even mixture of old and new items. “It’s the same stuff they’re buying at a department store, but for a better price.”
Flea markets are also a “good way for a little guy to open a business,” thanks to a lack of overhead expenses, Parslow said. Indoor spaces are rented by the month, while those outdoors are rented by the day — and just one phone call is all it takes to start selling. Arcella Ingram made that phone call early this past summer.
She’s been coming periodically, usually on Wednesdays, ever since to sell her homemade treats as a fundraiser for her church, the Faith Temple Worship Center in Orwell, Ohio. By selling these fresh, made-from-scratch goodies, such as slices of subtly spiced sweet-potato pie for $2 and rich pound cake for $1.50, Ingram hopes to raise enough money to put new siding on the church.
“I do very well here, and will continue till I get my church sided,” said Ingram, of Warren.
Among the regulars there is Howard Ulbricht of Youngstown, who sells everything from “soup to nuts” in his booth — most of it from his late brother’s house, the contents of which Ulbricht inherited after his death in 2010.
Ulbricht specializes in stamps, however, and has dozens of volumes arranged in neat rows on the shelves of his booth. He’ll also appraise collections, though he cautioned that most stamps from 1940 onward aren’t worth quite as much as people tend to think.
Another regular is Mary Ann Squillano of Struthers — who sells items ranging from linens, to jewelry, to cookbooks. The former antique store owner said she enjoys coming to Four Seasons, which she’s done since 2009, because it’s filled with “a lot of good people.”
All of the vendors are friendly, Squillano added, and offer good deals, like a pack of six toothbrushes for $1. There’s something for everybody.
“I’ll keep selling here forever,” she said. “Honestly and truly, I like it.”