TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY NATHAN CHESKY
Smiley’s Flea Market is a method of time travel. The entire market contains treasures from each decade of the past century. For more recent finds, one can check out The Movie Zone.
I have been visiting this shop, found among the inside markets in the main building of Smiley’s, since I first got my driver’s license and came to the market on a Saturday morning looking for DVDs and Super Nintendo games. There has always been an overwhelming variety of media contained in their walls.
When I came back a few weeks ago, I noticed a mountain of VHS tapes towering over my head. The stack of tapes was close to 10 feet tall and 8 feet deep. When I arrived to interview co-owner Gina Dill, with that mountain of VHS in mind for a photo, even more boxes, shelves of comic books, model kits and other items covered the pile. A whole new room was filled in the back. The avalanche of content had reached a mesmerizing peak.
Nathan: So what is going on in here?
Dill: We bought out three separate collections, back-to-back-to-back, a model kit collection we have just started sorting through, a comic book collection. These were people who had been collecting their whole life and wanted to get rid of it all. We have been here for so long they know where to go when they are ready to get rid of them. So here we are.
N: Are you the owner and how long have you been here? Does it have an official name?
D: The Movie Zone. My husband, Jimmy, and I own it. (Speaking to her husband) Honey, how many years have we been here? 2003? Yes, 2003.
N: Can you share what you think is special about getting entertainment content this way instead of the convenience of clicking a few buttons on your remote at home?
D: That’s the fun of it. That’s the one thing I really enjoy. We really miss the saving up, the going through it, the having it in your hand. … On his (Dill’s nephew’s) birthday, we went down at midnight, went down to the store. It’s an event.
N: What all are you looking for?
D: We don’t really take in the VHS anymore, but we do trade. It seems to grow. When you think about this. A lot of movies were never put on DVD. You think about the little VHS for kids. You give a DVD to kids, they take it out and quickly scratch it. The tape they can take it out themselves, they can manipulate it themselves.
N: What do you sell the most of?
D: It depends on the day. There have been days where I sell only model kits, then I won’t sell them for weeks. There was a weekend where we must have sold 100 VHS tapes, and of course days where we are selling just all DVDs.
N: Is this solely what you do for a living?
D: I am actually a nurse, a registered nurse. I was working here and we have five children. They wanted me to work more hours than I wanted to work. I was PRN, but I chose family first. I was kind of glad when that was over too.
N: Do you consider this your full-time job then?
D: Well we are only open on the weekends but believe me I promise you it’s full time. We have to go through everything that we just got in. We probably work more hours than at a normal job. Believe me it’s a full-time job.
N: What is your favorite item you have found?
D: Actually my favorite item is probably my Hercules sign. Do you know where it came from? It came from the park, the Disney park. We actually went down to the Disneyana convention and purchased it there. (The convention) was held at the Contemporary Resort (in Walt Disney World). It was actually hanging in the park.
N: How many DVDs do you have? Is that an impossible question?
D: If you saw what we have in the back you wouldn’t even ask! (Laughs)
N: And you are open year around?
D: Yes we are, every weekend.
N: For people who may not have considered shopping at a flea market, what would you share about this place that customers may not know?
D: There are a lot of great deals. Oddities. Things you won’t find in the stores anymore. People are trying to rush and just buy gifts. Instead of stopping to actually think about what would bring joy to their lives. Coming out here, you can find some of those items that might mean more. You can really make people happy.