If you want to buy a chicken, you can get one at the U.S. 1 Flea Market this weekend.
Not the skinned, boned and shrink-wrapped kind but the real cluck, in three colors, no less. Of course the handcrafted lizard boots dyed the colors of red clay and scorching yellow would put any hen to shame, despite her colorful plumage.
Those who pass by the buzzing indoor/outdoor market on weekends don't know what they're missing.
Like boots from El Reparo Western Wear. For 16 years, this little shop in the southwest indoor corner of the market has outfitted shoppers with colorful, stylishly studded boots for men, women and children, as well as men's jackets, belts and Western hats. Designers include Marco Colluccii, Los Altos and Rebelde. Some of the boots are American-made, and they're distinguished by a rounder toe.
However, for a stunning statement, go for the Mexican-made boots. More showpieces than footwear, their glory is in the rich dyes, stitching and embellishments, and that applies to the men's line. The points on those toes rival any woman's designer shoe.
The gold jewelry, perfume and sports apparel are authentic, says manager Mike Brown of Valley Management Group, which has run the market for 11 years. Prices vary, from discounted to a little higher than what one might pay at the local big-box store.
The indoor food court could be a seminar on the nuances of Hispanic flavors. The food can't get more authentic unless one travels to points south, very south.
At another stand, a group of women with gloved hands slice up melons and mangos for sale and hang bags of pork rinds made from wheat flour, while Latin music blares from a nearby CD vendor.
Baby dolls, backpacks, model toy trucks and cars, reconditioned stoves and washing machines, purses, builders tools, women's clothes and home accessories are market staples. A key-cutting service inside can make the trip worthwhile. Prices for new maternity clothes start at $10 for shirts, a real bargain.
For four years, Bob Sharratt has sold nuts and candy from the sweet spot inside, the corner booth just at the entrance. A retired salesman, Sharratt has worked at flea markets off and on since he was 16. He's seen the changes in markets, from a focus on antiques to, well, just about anything. But he can't see giving it up.
"It's just fun to get out and meet people," he says about the flea market world. "I've learned a lot."
The U.S. 1 Flea Market is open 52 weeks a year, Saturdays and Sundays only, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parking is easier the earlier one arrives, but some indoor vendors don't open their booths until 10 a.m. or later. Sunday is the busiest day, says Brown. www.us1fleamarket.net