While flea markets are not unique to Florida, the ones you see there are different than those found elsewhere. They are not really flea markets, per se. Usually flea markets sell old stuff that someone has unloaded from his garage or basement. What people in Florida call flea markets are usually mini-malls that consist of stands or stalls and small stores. They often have cute-sounding names like Circus Tent Flea Market or Celebration Stores. And people go there to get a bargain. Each stand generally sells one type of item, such as belts. So there will be leather belts, canvas belts, vinyl belts, suspenders, and children’s belts at one stand, all types of watches – leather, gold, silver, tricolor, stopwatches, and pocket watches – at another stand, and only silver jewelry including bracelets, necklaces, earrings, charms and rings at yet another. In the larger flea markets, there are usually several of each type of stand per mall. So if you want to buy a white vinyl belt (and shoppers at flea markets in Florida do) and wish to spend only $15, you can go to three different stands that sell only belts before you meet your price.
Also housed in these flea markets are unique stores with merchandise you would find only in Florida. There is the stand selling women’s pant sets in a rainbow of colors, adorned with metallic appliqués that only old women in their sixties and seventies would buy. There’s the seashell store, which sells seashells covering every type of item imaginable – mirrors, picture frames, trashcans, and trivets. You give them an item, and they will cover it for you in seashells. There is the flamingo stand that sells prints of flamingos, not just in picture frames, but also on everything from aprons to tote bags, and baseball hats to jackets. There’s the plastic container store where you can get your name painted on any type of plastic container – napkin holders, jewelry boxes, make-up cases, remote control holders, and magazine racks. And there are whole stores selling only housedresses. If you don’t know which ones I mean, they are those loose-fitting dresses adorned with flowery prints that your grandmother wore around her apartment. At Florida flea markets, they come in every flower species imaginable. Finally, there’s the tourist trap store that sells oranges. You can buy not only real Florida oranges but fake ones, too, in the form of bubble gum, hard candy, cookies, balls, and balloons – all in the shape of the state’s famous fruit.