The Nashville Flea Market is making a comeback, albeit slower than the staff had hoped.

“I’m optimistic about this month’s market,” said flea market manager Mary Ann Smith, who expects more than 237 dealers and 527 booths this month compared with 202 dealers and 416 booths in the March market.

“I think we are making progress,” she said. “I think the April market will be good.”

But she said the market’s rebound is not as quick as she had hoped, still a far cry from the 400 to 500 dealers and up to 1,500 booths that typically filled the market in pre-COVID months.

She said the theme this month is “Spring Spectacular,” and dealers will be selling trees and shrubs, antiques, cosmetics, collectibles, yard art, metal pieces, rugs, clothing, socks and more. “Just about anything you’d want you can find out here,” she said.

The monthly markets, which take place at The Fairgrounds Nashville, have faced a tsunami of challenges over the last two years, ranging from a painful teardown and relocation of the flea market space to make way for the new soccer stadium to the COVID pandemic, which not only shut the market down for months, but also took over the indoor exhibit buildings to house homeless people.

There was no flea market at all for 14 months — from March 2020 to May 2021.

The flea market resumed outdoors only but eventually regained the indoor space access. But Smith said many of the regular dealers had taken their wares to other cities’ markets during the Nashville market’s down time. Plus, the ongoing construction has continued to be a challenge.

“Due to the construction that has been going on (on the soccer stadium), it has been difficult for dealers and for shoppers,” Smith said. “It has been a mess.”

She said the April market will take place indoors and outdoors — in the sheds outdoors and inside two of the three Expo Center buildings. “We have plenty of parking, and we have shuttles from the parking areas,” she said.

Smith said the good news is that the construction seems to be nearing completion and the Metro Council has approved a rent relief program to provide “a hand-up” to flea market dealers as an incentive to bring them back to the Nashville market.

A letter from the flea market team to dealers said the program is designed to help the dealers who have “experienced a reduction in income due to the closure of the Nashville Flea Market due to the pandemic.”

The program, which is not yet in effect, will give permanent dealers (as of March 2020) three subsidized booth rentals for up to eight months, non-permanent dealers two subsidized booths for up to four months, and new dealers can get one subsidized booth for up to two months.

Smith said the funding will come from the American Rescue Plan Act, and the hope is to have it start with the May market.

“I’m really hoping that will help bring back some of our dealers,” she said.

Mary Hance, who has four decades of journalism experience in the Nashville area, writes a weekly Ms. Cheap column. She also appears on Thursdays on “Talk of the Town” on NewsChannel5. Reach her at mscheap@mainstreetmediatn.com and follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/mscheap.

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