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Westfield Asks Outdoor International Market to Leave

Find out why Westfield Wheaton is telling the market to find another location before October.

After Sept. 30 the International Outdoor Market will no longer be in its usual place of business.

According to Market Manager Lindsey Johnson, Westfield Wheaton requested closing the market to provide additional parking space for the Costco that will be opening in October.

“Given what we have done to promote the market, I am disappointed we have to shut it down,” Johnson said. “We were building something that we thought was going to stay for years to come… However, this is the way it has evolved.”

Providing the city and the wider DC area with the opportunity to sell and buy cheap goods, the market moved twice before settling in for the past two years at the Westfield Wheaton mall parking lot near the Westfield North office building.

Johnson received an official letter from mall management last Monday notifying him that the market needed to be closed by the end of this month. Mall management searched around for an alternate location, even sending in a request to use Parking Lot 13 in downtown Wheaton near the Mid-County Regional Services Center, according to Johnson. But it was denied by the Montgomery Parking Lot District, he said, on the grounds that it would negatively impact the area and its businesses.

Patch made several attempts to contact mall management via phone and email to confirm this, but no response was made.

Johnson is currently looking for places to relocate the market, including the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg. However, he and the majority of the vendors would like to stay in Wheaton.

The market's assistant manager, Wayne Woodruff, said that closing down the market would hurt not only the Wheaton economy but the vendors as well.

“The market has become a cultural mecca of different nationalities that come here to sell and meet people,” Woodruff said, adding that market management prides itself on “providing an opportunity to create jobs” as well as offering customers a chance “to purchase needed items at reasonable prices.”

Several vendors expressed disappointment after hearing the news.

Jean George has been with the market for about a year. “It sucks,” she said when asked what she thought about having to relocate. “Every time you find a place they close it down.”

Another vendor, Kurt Williams, who has been selling DVD’s at the Wheaton market for about three months, described working at flea markets as a “nomad business.” 

“You are here today and gone tomorrow,” Williams said. "Any time a flea market closes it’s bad…It defeats a purpose; it hurts the area and takes out the money.”

News of the market closing down hasn’t reached many in the Wheaton community yet, and the vendors only found out Saturday.

Brenda Terrell Jones, 65 and retired, drives out every weekend to the market. “Closing the market down would be a tragedy,” she said after learning Sunday that it would be shut down.

Jones said she would tell everyone on her street that the market is closing in hopes of changing the outcome.

Johnson will continue to notify vendors and customers this upcoming weekend. He is also going to submit another request to use Parking Lot 13 on Sundays in hopes that the Parking Lot District will reconsider. He believes it would have minimal impact on the area since most businesses are closed that day.

“The best alternative is to keep it in Wheaton, he said. “However, we will try to make the best of the situation and find another location.”

Commentous September 21, 2012 at 12:09 PM
I don't think it's a shame to have Costco as "another generic big box store" in Wheaton. We have Best Buy, which is on its last legs as a corporation, and the mall as for big retail establishments. In addition, without Costco coming, I think the mall would have taken much longer to develop into a place where many people shop regularly. Not long ago, it was a very depressing place to go and had many shops that turned over quickly and lots of unused space. From talking with some managers in a couple of the mall's newer not-big-box establishments, they are still doing middling sales but hope that Costco can help them and came here, in part, because of Costco's decision to open here. The outdoor market has to be somewhat nomadic to keep overhead costs well below what others pay to have storefronts. It's difficult to find space that is (1) cheap (2) promises to remain cheap for a long time, and (3) welcome on the same property as other retail establishments. Still, there are other places available for an outdoor market if the owners/costs allow it. Elizabeth Chaisson mentioned some possibilities. The Staples-side spaces of Glenmont shopping center are often empty. The BB&T building parking lot (Georgia and Blueridge) is often empty on weekends too. The County, I'm guessing, does not want school parking lots potentially littered over the weekend.
ED September 21, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Commentous - Westfield received $ 6 million dollars from the County in 2003 to build the Macy's parking garage. In exchange for this money, Westfield agreed to allow 400 parking spaces in the garage to be used by "walk-off" residents. Westfield has the right to move these spaces from the garage, but I believe they are committed to providing these spaces until 2018. I'd have to look up the exact dates, but the idea was that for $ 6 million dollars, residents/visitors could park in the Mall and walk to Metro or downtown Wheaton. Westfield was supposed to have a sign on the garage letting people know about this agreement, but I have never seen it. I have heard that parking is enforced in some parts of the Mall - I don't know if cars are towed or just ticketed.
Commentous September 21, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Thanks for the info. If that's true, I've wasted a lot of money over the years parking at the Metro when the weather was bad or when I had to run errands right after work (so I couldn't walk the 15-20 minutes home). I'll have to contact the mall and see if they know anything about it; I'll come back here if I find out anything specific.
ED September 21, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Commentous - that would be great. It will be interesting to hear what the Mall says about the parking and their agreement with Montgomery County.
Commentous September 21, 2012 at 08:27 PM
There may be an agreement, but I just called the mall, and the people working in the mall's management office weren't aware of it.

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