Summerfest at Edwardsville Flea Market brings community together

The Edwardsville Flea Market recently held its first Summerfest since the event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After postponing the event due to COVID-19, the Edwardsville Flea Market has held their annual Summerfest once again.


The building functions as a hub for local vendors to sell virtually anything. It is owned by Rick Ellis and Dan Vetter, where local vendors or businesses can reach out to them to have their items sold in the market. The two purchased the business as a way to keep busy during their retirements. 


“About eight or nine years ago, I was a vendor here. It was just something neat to do. I love to shop, and why not love to shop and then resell what you buy to make a profit?,” Ellis said. “When the building went up for sale, we actually decided to kind of just leave our jobs at our companies, and do this as a retirement thing.”


Before retirement, Ellis worked at a law firm in St. Louis for 23 years, while Vetter worked for an airline. Vetter said although he and Ellis had jobs that were not very similar to what they do now, they always enjoyed selling items to the community.


“I was with the airlines for 30 years. We always loved doing this. It was an easy transition once we figured out what we wanted to do with it,” Vetter said. “It was an easy switch. It was time to get out of the airline business, it’s basically a bus in the sky.”


Vetter said he enjoys the flea market greatly, but it was Ellis who first got him involved. Vetter also said the duo have changed what they sell over time as well.


“Rick has kind of always done things like this, but then I came along and did it with him … Mainly getting started, it was vintage glass, and whenever we got to owning the business, I got into furniture,” Vetter said.


Selling furniture and other household items, especially for lower prices, is a very important service in a college town according to Vetter.


“We get a lot of college students. Round about time people start moving into dorms, we try to have quite a bit of very reasonably priced furniture, because a lot of people need that, as well as school supplies,” Vetter said.


While Vetter has been more interested in furniture, Ellis said his interests have moved to making and selling candles.


Longtime customer of the Edwardsville Flea Market Amanda Ratcliff was present for Summerfest. She was selling hotdogs outside the entrance for any hungry visitors. Ratcliff said she’d been visiting the flea market for three years and is always very interested in what’s available.


“It’s a friendly, warm place to come into. There’s always a ‘Hello.’ They’re willing to help you find things and they’re even willing to look out for things that customers are specifically looking for,” Ratcliff said. “The things are ever-changing. If you see something today, you’re going to want to grab it because it will be gone tomorrow. It’s one of my favorite places to visit and shop.” 


Ellis also said any items they have for sale may not be on the shelves for long, both because of other customers and because of the need to cycle out the vendors in the space.


“We have 31 vendors’ items in here right now, and there’s a two-year waiting list,” Ellis said. “It would take us at least two full years to get through the whole list of names and be through it.”


Kasey Villanueva, a mother visiting with her husband, mother-in-law and daughter, said she had passed by the flea market many times but never entered. 


“I had no idea what would be here, and there’s so many treasures. We’re really enjoying looking through everything, “ Kasey Villanueva said. “I actually found a 1986 edition of Anne of Green Gables, which I was going to give to my daughter. My sister used to read it to me when we were little, so I thought that would be a fun tradition we could do.”


Kasey’s daughter, Aviana Villanueva, said she found a few things for herself as well.


“I found a green skirt, which I’ve been looking for for a while, a limited edition Wong [from the Marvel Cinematic Universe] Funko Pop and a little heart-shaped thing that I’m going to put jewelry in for a good price,” Aviana Villanueva said.


Ellis said there was nothing bad about his previous job, but the business and community he and Vetter have with the Edwardsville Flea Market is much different and a lot more his speed.


“Each one of the units is a different individual. They come in and they put their merchandise up. You find a little bit of everything here,” Ellis said. “It's just, you know, I was at a time in my life that when this came, this was an opportunity to do something you love doing.”

For more information, visit the Edwardsville Flea Market’s Facebook page.

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