PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Customers and vendors showed up to the Dragon Indoor Flea Market in Port Richey, only to find the doors locked and a sign saying it’s shut down.
“It’s a nice day, let’s go shopping. And we come here and it’s closed,” said regular customer Karen Yauger.
Anette Sotiri was out of town and had no idea this was happening.
She had a booth inside selling clothes, and all her stuff is still in there.
“Nobody ever sent me a message and nobody ever told me that this place is closed,” she said.
Vendors say they got word the flea market was suddenly shutting down last week, and it was a mad scramble to get all their stuff out.
It was especially tough for many of the elderly vendors, including some in their 80's and disabled.
There had been issues before.
Vendors say the operator, Brian Fransen, didn’t pay the electric bill and they lost power.
Some say they even lent him money to help keep the place open.
“For every vendor, it’s going to hurt every vendor when they shut the doors. We were out on the sidewalk for five days the first time the power went off,” said Lloyd Brooks, who sells golf supplies.
Records show Fransen has had past legal trouble, including grand theft and tax liens.
This mess comes about seven months after an unrelated case where Pasco County officials shut down the USA Flea Market because of code violations.
Some of those vendors had moved here to keep their businesses going.
Now they’ll have to move again or just give up.
“This is my first experience and my last probably with a flea market,” said vendor Carl Stump.
“Very surprised. I don’t know what to say. I’m shocked,” said Sotiri.
Anette isn’t completely out of luck.
The property owner is working with vendors and will let her in so she can get her clothes back soon.
Others who lent Fransen money, will have to take him to court.