Hodgepodge bazaar fills a void, fulfills fantasies

November 27, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

It's got 193 vendors, a midway, a greenhouse, an auction house, a children's zoo and more.

It's got sellers hawking discount you-name-its and people who expect to turn a buck on everything from lingerie to leathers, from meat to Mace, from dollies to doilies.

Tradersmart is a mix of just about anything you could spend money on. The market, filling the 80,000 square-foot cavern that was Mr. Goodbuys in Beltway Crossing shopping center, makes its grand opening tomorrow, during the second shopping day of the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

Developer and shopping center co-owner Richard B. Kabat calls it a "public market, with as many attractions as possible to bring the family, give them inexpensive entertainment and good merchandise."

The only thing he has planned for the Glen Burnie market not to have is a fresh fish stand. "We were afraid of the smell," Mr. Kabat says.

Tradersmart targets four ways to spend money: at vendors' booths, at a farmers' market, at a food hall that seats 150, and on entertainment that includes kiddie rides and a game arcade.

Mr. Kabat says he has planned for Tradersmart to have something for everyone. For example, there's a petting zoo to occupy children while their parents browse among diverse booths that house dented cans of food, fancy golf towels and a psychic.

The market will combine salesmanship with showmanship, as sellers take to a microphone to hawk their wares. What to some may seem like sensory overload is bargains galore to others.

Established stores are operating clearance centers here; Sunny's Surplus, for example, has a table of $2.50 sweat shirts next to one of half-price jeans.

John Sands of Hanover is using Tradersmart to gamble on a fixed-place shop for his 13-year-old business Blades & Things. He sells swords, armor and the like, catering to customers' dragon-slaying fantasies.

"Swords are a specialized product. People don't jump up from the dinner table and say 'I've got to have a sword,' " the former computer programmer says.

Until now, he's sold only at medieval and other East Coast festivals, where visitors show up with at least a passing interest in his wares.

As do other retailers, Mr. Sands hopes that at least some of the people expected to flock to Tradersmart each week will stop as they pass his booth and indulge in impulse buying.

And, as do other retailers, he plans to be part of the entertainment. He's sponsoring a swordsmanship demonstration at noon Sunday, and plans to whiten his beard to portray Santa Claus closer to the holidays.

Although Mr. Kabat adapted his idea from successful flea markets, he says Tradersmart is no indoor flea market. "It's a four-letter word we don't use," he says. "There are a lot of empty buildings like this in America, and I believe this can be replicated over time."

About three years ago, Mr. Kabat had planned Beltway Crossing as a discount home center. When the Mr. Goodbuys chain declared bankruptcy and shut its store there last year, other stores feared the center might fail without that anchor.

Mr. Kabat spent much of this year tuning the market concept 0nd refocusing the center as a bargain-hunter's mecca. Now, all of the space in the 180,000 square-foot shopping center, except for a fast-food spot, is occupied.

Tradersmart is open only Friday, Saturday and Sunday because that is when 80 percent of sales are made in the Baltimore market, Mr. Kabat says.

But it will expand selling days and times in the two weeks before Christmas.

Mr. Kabat expects to go one step further next spring, adding batting cages, a driving range, miniature golf and perhaps go-carts to the center's attractions. Bungee-jumping, he said, was nixed because it is so risky.

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