28th Street Flea Market closing after 50 years

Kent County

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — The 28th Street Flea Market, a Wyoming institution, is coming to an end. after nearly 50 years.

At the site of what used to be the Beltline Drive-In Theater and Studio 28, on sunny summer weekends, the 28th Street Flea Market has been home to everything you can imagine. 

28th Street Flea Market
The 28th Street Flea Market in Wyoming. (Courtesy Marcial Benevidez)

“Great food, weird stuff you can buy,” said Jordan Stonehouse, who has been going to the flea market since he was a child. “It exposed me to a lot of awesome different cultures and it’s something that makes Wyoming a very special place.” 

The flea market opened in May 1970 as way to make use of the drive-in property, which is still owned by Celebration Cinema. This weekend, signs went up announcing the closure on July 28. 

28th Street Flea Market
The 28th Street Flea Market in Wyoming. (Courtesy Marcial Benevidez)

Bruce and Marti Johns have been running the flea market for more than three decades, spending more than 12 hours there each day starting at 6 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

“There will be inside tears, but it’s been a long run,” said Bruce Johns, a retired Grand Rapids Public Schools employee who ran the market on the weekends after working all week in the district’s maintenance department.

On a good day, there are more than 300 vendors putting up $15 or $20 for a space and as many as 4,000 people paying the 50 cent admission. 

“We’ve had some come up with tears in their eyes saying this is what we’ve done for years and it’s gone,” said Marti Johns, who maintains the books while her husband takes care of the vendors and patrons.

The flea market operated even while the theaters operated. The drive-in closed in 1988 and Studio 28 was shuttered 20 years later. 

Celebration Cinema’s Emily Loeks said the flea market has generated just enough money to pay the taxes on the vacant property, but the time has come for development to begin on the 13-acre parcel. A proposal has not been finalized but city plans for the area, referred to as 28 West, have been looking to put in a mixed-use development including affordable housing and apartments. 

“I’d like to keep it going for 50 more years, but progress,” Bruce Johns said.

28th Street Flea Market
The 28th Street Flea Market in Wyoming. (Courtesy Marcial Benevidez)

The Johnses say that the internet has taken a toll on some of the higher-end items that used to be sold at the market. 

Still, they say this year has seen near-record numbers of people coming out on the few weekends that haven’t had rain. 

“We’ve been there so long most of them are like family,” Marti Johns said. 

Weather permitting, the flea market opens at 7 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday and things are usually wrapping up by 2 p.m. or so.

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