by Rod Lee
If ever further proof was needed that the Grafton Flea Market is one of the Blackstone Valley’s most venerated institutions, one need only have visited on a Sunday morning in late June, as we did.
On the sprawling grounds situated along Rt. 140 we immediately struck up a conversation with Jonathan Giantz of Cranston, Rhode Island who was selling rope and bungee cord. Mr. Giantz is one of the Grafton Flea’s new vendors.
A little later we conversed with Ralph Kent of Grafton who has been with the Flea Market for more than forty years. Mr. Kent boasts a collection of over 70,000 records, including some of the finest vinyl (45’s, LP’s, 78’s) to be found anywhere. He holds court in the enclosed area of the Flea.
Two vendors, one a recent addition to the Grafton Flea Market, the other a long-time loyalist.
Like Mr. Kent, Mr. Giantz can now say “I’m a believer” in the merits of the Grafton Flea.
“I’ve been working Seekonk Speedway, which is also Sundays, for two years. Some weeks I make up to $400 there,” he said. “I like (the Grafton Flea) because I can sell new stuff (bungee cord, stretch cord, poly rope, polypro rope, nylon rope, hanks, halyards, fabric and PVC) here, and they’re so welcoming.”
Mr. Giantz had secured a spot right near the entrance and so was ideally positioned for the hordes of people flooding across the road from the parking lot. His warm personality certainly didn’t hurt.
Business was fairly brisk, he said.
“The woman next to me said `I should be selling rope!’”
When he first took advantage of the opportunity to peddle bungee cord and rope, which he obtains from over-runs at Marine Rope International, he asked his supplier what he was supposed to do with the stuff if it didn’t sell.
“You can hang yourself with it!” he was told.
While bungee, which comes in different diameters, is still a big seller, “paracord is the most popular thing going,” he said. “It’s got seven strands in the middle. It’s strong, for tourniquets for instance.
“Any time you need `stretch,’ I have it,” he said, gesturing to the assortment of bungee cord and rope on a table.
Mr. Giantz’s daughter Jessica was nearby, selling bracelets and other items made from bungee cord.
Perhaps Mr. Giantz will one day be as familiar a face at the Grafton Flea as Mr. Kent, who says “I love records.” As evidence of that, he has been stockpiling them at his home on Sunnyside Terrace in South Grafton for some of the fifty-seven years he’s been at his hobby.
At any given moment Mr. Kent can be seen chatting with record enthusiasts in his booth with records in bins in front of him, arranged alphabetically. Some are separated by artist for the more celebrated individuals and groups, like Elvis. Still more records—genuine collector editions of famous albums, like “Stack-o-Tracks” by The Beach Boys, which as Mr. Kent puts it “used to be their most desired album”—are displayed on the wall behind him.
We bought two Bob Dylan albums: Empire Burlesque and Bob Dylan Vol. 3.
The resurgence of vinyl brings a smile to Mr. Kent’s face.
“The kids are buying it now,” he said.
Mr. Kent knows exactly what it takes to be a success: a great sampling of records, and a continually replenished supply.
“You have to have new inventory. That’s the secret of a flea market,” he said.
Rod Lee is a long-time local writer and observer of the Blackstone Valley scene and the current president of the Webster Square Business Association in Worcester. His most recent book is Nance’s Nook, a comic tale based on life at a small convenience store in Linwood. Email him at [email protected].