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Santa Maria Flea Market draws in hundreds of visitors during COVID-19

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The weekly Early Bird Flea Market has continued to remain open to the public despite the COVID-19 pandemic in Santa Maria.

The event has 65 to 70 vendors selling used items every Friday and Sunday at the Fairpark.

The event has drawn hundreds of buyers per day.

Days after Santa barbara County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino raised
coronavirus concerns over the Early Bird flea market in Santa Maria, the
event was held with new modifications.

"Well he said thumbs up. We’re doing an excellent job and he just came
around and checked and that was it," said Diana who is helping her parents Flavio and Maria with the Early Bird Flea Market.

Jose Hernandez is one of the nearly 70 vendors who’s pleased the flea market is still open. "It’s very important because this is how we make a living. In this situation we’re asking everybody to keep a distance to wash your hands and wear a face mask."

Diana's family is keeping the requirement simple: No mask, no entry.

They are also limiting the event to 100 visitors at a time.

Visitors say they feel safe at the flea market.

"I know they’re putting hand sanitizers everywhere. You have
to wear a mask and they spaced out the businesses very well, said visitor Katia Jasso.

While organizers say vendors are required to stay six feet apart, they decided to set up twenty feet apart to increase safety.

"We were at 10 feet distancing but we decided to distance by 20 feet now for extra safety," said Diana.

Organizers say they expect even busier crowds since the state-wide order to
close indoor malls and other places.

"Yes. This is the reason why we are following all the health
guidelines. I mean a lot of families depend on
this," said Diana.

They’re also attributing growing crowds to other flea markets on the
Central and South Coasts being canceled.

"We’re working as a team. We're working all together. It’s not just about us. It’s about everyone," said Diana.





 Patrick McGrath, the owner of the Lynnway Mart Indoor Mall & Flea Market, has agreed to a deal with several local organizations that will extend the moving deadline for vendors to early September. 

McGrath announced in mid-June that the Lynnway Mart, which has been closed for four months due to COVID-19 restrictions, is going out of business and will not reopen. 

At the time, approximately 200 vendors were given until mid-July to have their businesses moved off the property. 

The announcement sparked protests at the 800-810 Lynnway property, and led to talks among McGrath, vendors and local organizations. As a result, that deadline has been extended. 

“After discussing with the Lynnway Mart vendors, the New Lynn Coalition, North Shore Latino Business Association, (and) City Life/Vida Urbana, the Lynnway Mart has agreed to assist with the vendors and the moving out process,” said McGrath in a memo to vendors. 

“We have extended the deadline to move out until Sept. 4, 2020 in order to accommodate everyone’s needs.” 

All vendors will have access to the facility Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., McGrath said.  

The Lynnway Mart ownership and a board member from the North Shore Latino Business Association (NSLBA) will provide application assistance to vendors who are applying for grants from the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC/Lynn), McGrath said. 

“If needed, we are willing to provide reference letters from the Lynnway Mart,” McGrath said in the memo. 

The terms outlined in McGrath’s memo are ones that he negotiated with the NSLBA, according to Frances Martinez, NSLBA executive director, who said her organization got involved after being notified of the Lynnway Mart’s closure. 

Martinez said the NSLBA reached out to City Hall and the EDIC to inquire about what could be done to help the vendors, which led to a meeting between the NSLBA board members and James Cowdell, EDIC/Lynn executive director. 

The NSLBA then sent a letter to McGrath informing him of the statewide eviction moratorium that was in place for businesses until Aug. 18. 

In the meeting that followed in late June, Martinez said she asked McGrath for more time for vendors to relocate their businesses, which would extend beyond that Aug. 18 moratorium. 

She said McGrath suggested early September, but she wanted to ensure that vendors were also provided with reference letters to prove they were business owners and tenants at the Lynnway Mart, since none of the vendors have a lease agreement. 

“People had been there for 30 years,” said Martinez. “We wanted to make sure we were able to help them and relocate them to another location.” 

McGrath confirmed he was approached about the extension for vendors and that all seemed to be in agreement with the new timeframe. There’s about 100-120 vendors who still remain on the site, he said. 

“People aren’t going to all be happy,” said McGrath. “We know that. We agree with that. But we conceded on just about everything they asked for.” 

With the extension in place, the focus has shifted toward identifying potential business locations in the city that could accommodate the hundreds of displaced vendors. 

Vendors have been put in touch with brokers and real estate agents, and people have also reached out about their available commercial space, Martinez said. 

But there’s a larger undertaking in the works as well. 

Ward 6 Councilor Fred Hogan, who represents the area where Lynnway Mart is located, said there is a person who is interested in running a flea market in another location within his ward, but declined to provide specifics because the deal is in the early stages. 

“We have found a location. We’re in (the) works with a gentleman who is going to run the flea market and he’s in contact with the (property) owner,” said Hogan. “He’s in the process of getting the proper permitting and going through the proper channels with the city of Lynn to secure this place.” 

Time is of the essence, though, as the vendors need to start moving some of their product, Hogan said. 

“A lot of them are hurting financially, so as a councilor, moving from Ward 6 to Ward 6 is easier,” he said. “It’s in the beginning stages and we hope everything goes well for them.” 

Yoleny Ynoa, a member of the Lynn Latino Leadership Coalition who organized the protests at the Lynnway Mart following the announcement that it would remain closed, said the vendors are satisfied with the new deadline. 

But he doesn’t think the Sept. 4 extension will provide enough time for the vendors to relocate. Ynoa and other protestors had been seeking another year to two years for them to find a new place. 

“It’s not good to go out of business,” said Ynoa. “It’s a bad moment right now because we’re in the middle of a pandemic. It’s a bad moment to say: we’re going to close. But he’s the owner of the property. If he wants to close, there’s nothing we can do.”