Bargain Hunters’ Delight


Bargain Hunters’ Delight

Josefa and Basilio Gomez Jr. members of their family have operated the 77 Flea Market since 1981. (VBR)
Members of Josefa and Basilio Gomez Jr.’s family have operated the 77 Flea Market since 1981. (VBR)

Brownsville flea market keeps customers coming back

Every weekend people flock to more than a dozen flea markets around the Rio Grande Valley in search of bargains.

The largest and one of the oldest flea markets in South Texas is the 77 Flea Market in north Brownsville, where hundreds of people shop, eat and enjoy the day every weekend.

Taking the name from its location on Expressway 77, now also known as Interstate 69, this market is built on the northern section of 77 acres, leaving room for future expansion.

The business is owned and run by a local family headed by Basilio and Josefa Gomez. Their sons and daughters – Basilio Jr., Juani G. Parra, Adriana G. Condit, Alberto Gomez, Magda Camero, Luis I. Gomez, Mary Rosas, Claudia Gomez and Araceli Perez – can be seen each weekend manning the office, going from stall to stall, driving a trash truck and generally ensuring everything goes smoothly.

“We opened the market in 1981 on an Easter Sunday,” Josefa Gomez said. “It was a sort of a hobby as we wanted to do something on Sunday.”

Little they did know that 36 years later, the 77 Flea Market would evolve into such a popular destination for bargain hunters.

Hundreds of vendors arrive Saturday and Sunday to sell their wares, some of which might be classified as junk or used or second-class merchandise. But, as the old saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And that keeps flea market customers coming back for more.

Tools of all kinds, fishing gear, household items, doors, paintings, fruits and vegetables, plants, used and new clothing, jewelry, birds, CDs, radios and stereo components are among the thousands of items one can buy at prices that can range from a little as 50 cents to more than $100.

A Family Affair

Basilio “Bacho” Gomez Jr. said the success of their flea market depends on several factors.

>One, he said, is that they have been providing a family atmosphere where entire clans come to take a walk, eat at one of dozens mom-and-pop eateries and shop until they are worn out.

Secondly, he added, is the devotion the family has when it come to running a business that opens all 52 weekends of the year.

Thirdly, Gomez said, treating people with respect is at the forefront of their operation.

“We greet people equally, regardless of who they are,” Josefa Gomez said.  “We try to keep the place clean and keep providing better services.”

Bacho said the flea market first opened with 10 metal tables for an equal number of vendors, even though they ended up the first business weekend with only nine tables when someone dropped out.

Lalo Del Los Reyes has been selling plants at the market since 1983. (VBR)
Lalo Del Los Reyes has been selling plants at the market since 1983. (VBR)

From then on, the market kept growing until becoming so large that new sections, whether covered or not, and additional parking areas have been added.

“We plan to add more paved parking,” Bacho said. “This is an ongoing project and we have plenty of land.”

As new vendors, some of which come from as far as Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, keep arriving on any given weekend, the Gomez flea market has a contingent of veterans who said they have been selling goods there for as long as they can remember.

“I started selling plants and pots back in 1983,” Lalo De Los Reyes said. “Come rain or shine, a hurricane, blazing heat or freezing weather, I have been and still will be here.”

Andrea Godoy, who along with her family has been running an eatery called Alfredo’s Jr., said this is their 29th year in business at the flea market.

Leo Conejo, a seasoned shopper at the 77 Flea Market, said he has been at other markets at some of the Lone Star State’s biggest metropolis.

“Nothing compares to this one,” said the 76-year-old Brownsville resident. “I have been coming here since the time there was one row of vendors. I am still shopping today.”

Thousands of items are displayed at the market with prices ranging from 50 cents to more than $100. (VBR)

Freelance journalist Tony Vindell has more than 30 years experience as a newspaper reporter. Born in Nicaragua, he studied journalism and political science at the University of Missouri-Columbia and at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. He began his career working for The Pecos Enterprise in West Texas. Vindell also worked for The Laredo News, The Brownsville Herald, Valley Morning Star, Port Isabel News Press and the Raymondville Chronicle/News. Vindell, who lives in Brownsville with his wife Sharon, enjoys hunting, fishing and traveling.