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Many Vendors Lose Everything at Walnut Creek Amish Flea Market in Ohio   

SUGARCREEK, Ohio - The state fire marshal is trying to determine a cause for a fire that destroyed a large part of the Walnut Creek Amish Flea Market, a popular tourist destination in Ohio's Amish Country.

Firefighters were notified of the blaze at about 4 a.m. Wednesday and by the time they arrived, the building was already in flames.

Ashley Spears, the flea market's manager, arrived soon after she was notified several hours later and said she could still see flames climbing over the building's main entrance.

Fire doors prevent the flames from spreading to other parts of the market, but many of the more than 50 vendors lost everything they had.

Jeff Stroup and his family were among the first to have been vendors when the flea market first opened 11 years ago.

His business, Amish Country Gourmet, was among the first that visitors to the flea market would have seen after they entered the front doors.

"We were the first thing that you saw. We sampled everything so there was probably about 120 different things which you could try so that's the first thing everybody did was, 'Oh, look -- free samples,'" said Stroup.

On Wednesday, there was nothing left of his family's business where they were planning an inventory of their merchandise on Wednesday.

"Our inventory is zero," said Stroup.

"We were ready to make our big order because the busy season is coming up and, you know, the market closes mid-December so this is the big stretch going into mid-December," he added.

The market attracted tourists and repeat customers from around the country and Canada.

"There's entertainment people, we had outside vendors here and probably we are going to have more outside vendors here because the building's gone," said Stroup's father-in-law, Louis Merkle, who owns their business.

While Merkle said they would continue their business online, the physical store was covered by insurance.

Some other vendors who lost everything said they had no insurance.

"We have built this family over the last, you know, 11 years that we have been open to know that this was their livelihood;  this was their business, and these were our friends and our family. It breaks our hearts," said Spears. 


Gigantic Flea Market in Mexico

Tianguis La Lagunilla is considered the best among Mexico City flea markets, its fame having spread across the globe. Many of the best antiques and collectibles dealers from throughout the city come every Sunday to put out the cream of their crop.

Lagunilla is a tourist haven because foreign currency can travel a bit further. Yet, it’s still a weekly ceremony for hardcore locals.

Some come to find a good deal, some come to drop serious coin on antiques, and some come just to party. La Lagunilla is the perfect cure for Saturday night’s hangover – and expect to see some folks with bloodshot eyes bumbling through the crowd.

Much is written about the dangers at the Tianguis, the surrounding daily market and the neighborhood, but it’s usually overblown. As is recommended when navigating any crowds in the city, keep your gear close, your eyes open and don’t wander too far from the market doors.  But the great majority of visitors are there purely for the experience.

Not much is pure trash at Lagunilla – it’s a survival of the fittest sort of place. You can expect to find mid-century modern furniture, vintage clothing, classic antique glassware and original artwork. There are certainly swindlers, but most of the offerings are top tier.[Build your creepy boudoir at Lagunilla.]
Build your creepy boudoir at Lagunilla.

There is a definite look, a fashion sense, to the vendors throughout the Tianguis that mingles swaths of the pirate, cowboy and 1970s rockstar: sunglasses, leather hats, jeans and dangling talismans. It’s a place for personalities.

Old bros fist-bump after a sale, their ponytails jostling in sync – a dance of the salesman. Women in headscarves sell striking, original jewelry with a tarot reading tossed in to sweeten the deal.

They’re the “never wanted a 9-to-5” working class. Among the sellers of Lagunilla, life is about experience, making it work with what you love. And what better way to make it than to travel Mexico’s mountain ranches in search of historic wooden masks that could otherwise be lost. Or to dig through estate sales for old books and original artwork. Or to get stoned and bend metals into ornamental treasures.

You can find everything from a peyote cactus, to a Tiffany lamp, to pieces of pre-Hispanic pottery at Lagunilla. Want to live like the rich and famous and throw away your designer dressing gown each morning? At Lagunilla, you can do it for 800 pesos a day.

It’s said that Guillermo González Camarena, inventor of one of several color television systems, bought everything he needed for his experiments here in 1934.

Just skip the Nazi gear. Most of it isn’t real but are re-creations.[Tianguis La Lagunilla, land of talismans.]
Tianguis La Lagunilla, land of talismans.

The best way to tackle Lagunilla is with a michelada in hand, the tamarind syrup spilling onto your wrist. Walk through the music: from classic rock, to blues, to cumbia, to reggaeton.

The masks are among the most impressive as is the huge framed artwork. Or you may just end up with a piece of silver or a set of crystal glassware you never knew you needed.

There’s certainly some history in all of that’s offered. It’s just a matter of how forthcoming the seller is with unbridled truth. You can always try to haggle for a deal – no one will scoff. Or ask to flip a coin to see if you can win your bartered price – a favorite among sellers with a gambling bent. Just know you’ll be paying full price if you lose.

If you’re looking for antiques and collectibles, make sure you go to the Tianguis rather than the full market. But the daily market, split into clothing, furniture and food sections, still has plenty to offer.

It’s always worth a walk through the formal clothing section to gander at all the garish-to-gorgeous notions for the perfect wedding or plan that decadent quinceañera your dad never let you have. And how can you not take home a pack of two dozen “Thanks for coming to my First Communion lighters” for 50 pesos?

When you’re done, head over to the party tent to celebrate.

As we waited for a taxi after last Sunday’s visit, an inebriated couple approached us to chat — her with tamarind lips; him with a prominent hot sauce spot on his shirt. They rocked back and forth unsteadily.

“Did you have a good time?” we asked.

“Of course,” she said. “Look at us.”