Olde Hadley Flea Market bids adieu

  • The Olde Hadley Flea Market, pictured in 2018 on Route 47 in Hadley, won’t be reopening after four decades. The market closed at the onset of the pandemic. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Thursday, March 23, 2023

HADLEY — A giant outdoor flea market that for nearly 40 years brought hundreds of vendors and thousands of customers to a large field along Route 47 prior to the pandemic will not be reopening.

The organizers of the Olde Hadley Flea Market in late February announced via Facebook that the market, last held in 2019, is ending its run, bringing a close a place where people could find everything from antiques and vintage items to furniture and plants, kitchen utensils and Tupperware.

“After much consideration, we have made the difficult decision to close The Olde Hadley Flea Market permanently,” the organizers wrote in a post. “We will miss all of our faithful vendors, many of whom were like family, and to all of our patrons who enjoyed a day in the country. A heartfelt thank you for your many years of patronage. The land will be returned to its original purpose of farming in honor of our deceased father Raymond Kostek.”

The market was founded in 1981 by Raymond Szala and his late wife, Marion, with just eight dealers, but over time grew to as many as 250 dealers who would set up in the Lawrence Plain Road field, next to a large barn, on Sundays between May 1 and the first weekend in November.

It was often an informal place where vendors could set up each weekend or just one time, with regulars coming out as early as 4 a.m. to set up their tables and the first customers arriving before the unofficial 7 a.m. opening.

“Families will want to come here wanting to clear out their garages or attics,” Raymond Szala said in a 2011 interview, observing that it offers a wider audience than a person having a home tag sale and that there were 6 acres of parking available.

Once the dealers had staked out their spots, the $20 to $25 fee would be collected from them. Those who came to shop or just to browse and walk around the site, though, were not charged an admission.

At one time, the flea market drew so many customers that congestion along Route 47 was a regular occurrence during the season, with police details needed. As recently as 2018, those who lived nearby complained about the difficulty getting to and from their homes due to the bottleneck of vehicles.

Nancy Dingman of Holyoke is among those who will miss dropping by the flea market.

“It saddens me,” Dingman said. “It was always a fun Sunday field trip for the family. It was a fund thing to do and I’ve gotten a lot of stuff there over the years.”

Another who frequented the flea market was Brenda Nelson of Holyoke, who said she used the trips out of the city as an excuse to get together with her adult daughters.

“I loved the treasure hunting aspect of the flea market, and the fact that you could entertain yourself for a couple dollars, walk around in the sunshine talking to people and come home with a treasure,” Nelson said.