News Section: Local news
In a Tough Market, the Red Barn Might be the Best Location in the County
|15 acres of free parking surround the massive complex|
Surely, the internet has helped local entrepreneurs reach a previously unthinkable audience, but it's also driven up competition, while driving down prices – leaving online merchants with a razor slim profit margin that requires super high-volume selling. Add in shipping rates and ridiculously high merchant service fees for what amounts to 100 percent credit card business, and a local merchant's prospects grow even more stark. The bottom line: without a local customer base willing to pay a fair (and often cash) price for something they can touch and feel and take home on the spot, local merchants are finding tough times even tougher.
That being said, commercial rent is often not cheap, even in these high-vacancy days of mass commercial foreclosure. A merchant has to weigh out the low-margin sales of their zero overhead online business with the amount of new business a storefront might bring them. Any location situated near heavy drive-by traffic, or in the plaza of a strong anchor such as a Publix, commands an even higher price.
|Something for everyone at the Red Barn Flea Market|
As gas prices continue to rise, people are “driving around” less and sticking more to one-stop outings. With all of those things considered, if I were going to open shop in Manatee County, I'd want to be at the Red Barn. My son and I go to the Red Barn most every weekend. I'm a proponent of buying local and with an entire corridor filled with produce vendors, one cruise down the isle and I've gotten the lowest price for every item we need. Forget paying $3 for bland, flavorless tomatoes too. I've found that my staple items – strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, avocados, grapes and apples are often as little as half the price of the local supermarket, with equal or more quality because I'm buying direct from the vendor – putting some money directly in the pocket of a fellow taxpayer, while keeping some in my own.
I'm also blown away by the amount of gadgets, tools and contraptions I find for a fraction of the cost of even a discount retailer like Walmart. Our house rule has long been: Red Barn first – in order to ensure we don't pay three times the price for something when we're not sure of its real value. In addition to an incredible selection of fresh produce and unique specialty items, there's also a plethora of second-hand goods and collectibles. From the stand with the like new Levi's and Dickie's for $10 a pair, to the collectible toys without the Ebay shipping cost, there's something for everyone.
Mouthwatering gorditas at the iconic Maria's Taqueria
photo by skiplombardi.org
Think twice if you're on a diet, because you may be surprised to find that Red Barn has some of the best fast food in the area. In fact, it's like going to the county fair in a food sense. From fresh slices of Italian pizza to giant hot pretzels, sausage, funnel cake, and incredible “mini donuts,” to a host of Spanish treats like churros, you'll definitely want to indulge. My personal favorite is Maria's Taqueria near the main office. I'm not alone. This is the real deal, authentic Spanish cuisine and hands down the best gorditas in Manatee County, and they have the regulars lined up to prove it. In the middle of the main area, there's even a spot to grab a cold beer and listen to some live music.
So what does this mean to local businesses? Red Barn is a destination. They have 1.5 million walk byes, not drive byes. Herds of people shuffle through on a non-stop basis all weekend and the retail storefronts inside are open six days a week. The demographics are all over the board, from young to old and there are a lot of high-end rides in the jam-packed parking lot. It is literally Manatee County's largest attraction and destination, giving virtually any kind of business, from retail to service specialties, the absolute best possible chance to have shoppers who are out spending money to be exposed to their product.
With space that ranges from permanent 301 storefronts in an air-conditioned building, to open-air booths of all sorts of varieties, there's a spot for every size and type of vendor from the weekend hobbyist to the full-time business – even an existing business or service that wants a small booth just to give samples or expose more people to their product during the jam-packed weekend. Shoppers with cash in their pocket are at the Red Barn already, while most half-vacant plazas are sitting empty and praying for customers.
Think about it, where else can someone go to buy vintage clothes, cigars, produce, a hot tub, power tools, throwing knives, designer clothes, jewelry, collectible toys, books, a blender, furniture, ginsu knives, lunch and a wooden Indian except... well the Red Barn. So if I wanted to sell ANYTHING, that's where I'd be. If you'd like to put their million and a half shoppers in front of your product, shoot them an email or give them a call at 941-747-3794, or toll free from anywhere in the U.S. at 1-800-274-FLEA (3532).
Read what Sarasota Surroundings had to say about Sunday Morning at the Red Barn.
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