Community News


Originally published in the Spring 2022 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 68, printed April 21. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Spring 2022 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For other issues dating back to 2012, see the Full Issues page.

By Safia Abdulahi

The hidden gem known as the Supreme Flea Market is the largest Black-owned multivendor institution in Virginia. It’s located at 3302 Williamsburg Road on the Richmond-Henrico County line in a large, one-story building with a nostalgic essence outside and ‘90s music playing as you enter. It hosts mostly Black entrepreneurs with a variety of skills ranging from hairstylists and barbers to sellers of appliances, candles, clothing, furniture and much more.

The Supreme Flea Market is Virginia’s largest Black-owned multivendor institution – one with a strong community focus. Photo by Safia Abdulahi.

The market is run by Harnella and Richard Walton, owners of Afrikongo, an African goods store housed in the market. The Waltons started off as vendors and then took over the market about 10 years ago.

Many businesses have struggled due to the pandemic, but the Supreme Flea Market used it to its advantage by creating more than 10,000 face masks. The pandemic was a “growth period” for the market, according to Ms. Walton.

The market hosts many Black business owners just starting their businesses who need a place to begin selling without worrying about the responsibilities of owning a store.

“This is a training ground right here, more than anything else,” Ms. Walton said. “This place provides a person an opportunity to learn how to run a business.”

The Waltons plan to retire next April and move the leadership to someone who’s going to “take it to the next level.”

The word “flea” has a stigma surrounding it, leaving many individuals in the community to believe the market is a place where people can only find cheap items. Lynetta Thompson, owner of Lyn’s Gallery in the market, said the word “flea” to her means “Finally Leaders Empowering Another.”

One elevating aspect of the Supreme Flea Market would be Community Unity in Action, a nonprofit organization that has its office in the building. Their “Keepin’ it Real Healthy” initiative works to end childhood hunger.

“It targets issues that are affecting the hardest economically challenged communities,” said Infinite Allah, the program’s director, “specifically with what is known as the Big Six, which is public housing from Gilpin Court all the way to Hillside. On that platform, it addresses what are known as ‘food deserts.’”

CUIA has worked to help schools, including Miles Jones Elementary, where the superintendent of Richmond Public Schools, the mayor and community entrepreneurs came together to feed the children.

The market has been around for many years as a force that has brought many people in the community together. It has many vendors who have been there for as long as 12 or more years, including Sister Brown, owner of Francis Variety Store, and Betty Dodson, owner of Framed Art Too.

Dodson worked for Virginia Commonwealth University for more than 30 years, retiring in 2014. She said she began her business so she would be able to have something to do after retirement.

“I knew I couldn’t sit home, and I wanted something that would help us as Black people,” she said. “I love to do this and I like to meet people, I like to talk to people, I like to tell people about the Lord.”

Brown said she has been in sales for more than 50 years and has had shops all around the Richmond area. She even had her own store on Mechanicsville Turnpike before becoming part of the Supreme Flea Market.

“I tell my customers, if I don’t have it in my shop, I don’t have it in my truck, I don’t have it in my garage and I don’t have it in my bag, it’s not worth having. That’s my logo,” Brown said.

Brown said she has stayed at the market so long, not because she felt she had to, but because she truly loves doing it.

“If I sell everything for a dollar, I’d be a millionaire,” Brown said. “I built up everything all those years up until now.”

Not only does the market host multitalented vendors, it also has an event space available for the community to host baby showers, parties and many different kinds of events.

Despite its many offerings, many members of the community do not seem to know the market exists. The vendors believe there is potential for the market to be something incredible, with the right marketing and resources.

“Maybe some more marketing will give it some more visibility,” said Addie Rudd, owner of Rudd’s Handcrafted Soy Candles.

Rudd said she thought people sometimes believe the market is abandoned when driving past and don’t take the time to come in and look at the place.

“It’s not just a regular flea market,” she said. “We have people in here with mostly new items – very gifted, talented people. People need to come and try and take a look and not just be deterred by what it looks like on the outside,” said Rudd.

Black people need to support Black entrepreneurs for there to be growth within the community, according to Richard Walton.

The Supreme Flea Market is located at 3302 Williamsburg Road in Richmond. The hours are 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday.

For more information, see the Supreme Flea Market Facebook page here or call (804) 888-6684.

Categories: Community News

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