In the City of Lansing, residents can find numerous flea market and antique stores, including Capitol City Pickers Vintage Marketplace, Dicker & Deal Second Hand Store, The Mega Mall and Vintage Junkies.
Each of these stores has something in common – they cater to the same community.
“When it comes to flea markets and antique stores, you can find different types of consumers,” said Ayalla Ruvio, an assistant professor of marketing at Michigan State University. “There are the ones that are generally interested in antiques. There are those people that do it for professional reasons. There are also those that have a high need for uniqueness. They’ll look for something rare.”
Rich Kelley, the current owner of Lansing’s The Mega Mall, believes his company has “something for everyone.”
“The Mega Mall has such a wide range of merchandise,” he said. “Not just antiques and collectibles, but lots of new stuff. Our mall is extremely family-friendly. The kids can come and buy video games and beanie babies. Dad can come and buy hunting and fishing stuff. Mom can come and buy jewelry and dishware. It’s a unique place to shop.”
The Mega Mall was established more than 20 years ago. Since then, management has worked hard to keep the business updated.
“You’ve got to keep it fresh,” Kelley said. “You’ve got to keep your name out there. You’ve got to keep people coming.”
According to Kelley, his secret to success is rooted in investment.
“We have a pretty good marketing budget and a pretty good advertising budget,” he said. “You’ve got to spend money to make money.”
Flea market frequenter Courtney Brogan lists The Mega Mall as her favorite antique store in Lansing.
“I love it,” she said. “I love the stuff they sell, the vintage, older items that make you feel like you’re back in time. They have all the retro toys that I grew up with. And they don’t only have antique items. They have a variety of everything, no matter what you want or need.”
Both Kelley and Ruvio believe flea market and antique store shopping is about more than buying – it’s about the experience.
“It’s not about the product,” Ruvio said. “It’s about shopping and the fact that you’re bargain hunting. You’re out there to find something that is exceptionally unique. Most people that go into these types of stores, they’re not looking for something specific. They go because they’re looking for something exciting.”
“The business is getting trendier and, where people used to turn their noses, it’s becoming more popular,” he said. “It’s really all about customer service. I train my employees to make this into a really friendly place to shop because it’s kind of an experience.”
So far, these methods have kept The Mega Mall successful.
“We’re 100 percent full right now,” Kelley said. “We’ve had a waiting list for two years. A lot of malls like ours have closed. But ours has actually seen growth. We’re surprisingly doing very strong.”
On the other side of downtown Lansing, flea market frequenters can find Dicker & Deal Second Hand Store. Dicker & Deal has been open for more than four decades. Inside, customers can find jewelry, sports equipment, memorabilia, computers and audio devices.
The first Sunday of every month, during Dicker & Deal’s outdoor flea market, interested customers can find even more.
“We’ve been doing this since June,” said Annie Signs, the event manager for Dicker & Deal. “We had an overwhelming response. It was pretty darn crowded.”
Signs is responsible for nearly everything that comes with each outdoor flea market, including finding and communicating with vendors, placing signs and setting up tents. She claims the monthly flea market has drawn a steady flow of customers over the summer.
“The secret, I think, is following through with vendors and having good communication and going the extra mile,” Signs said. “It’s diverse. It’s not all collectibles. The last one we had, we had some newer things, which isn’t always traditional, but it’s eclectic.”
According to Ruvio, consumer interest in flea markets and antique shopping is only growing.
“I think we’ll see more and more of these develop in the next few years,” she said. “The American consumer is looking for those kinds of shopping venues because people want that special shopping experience.”
“I like finding treasures,” she said. “Things they don’t sell in stores. It’s one of a kind.”