Peddler’s Market set to return

Thomas Murray stands by a sign in front of Parcel B where the Peddler’s Market will return to Naugatuck on April 14. The flea markets opens on Sunday. –STEVEN VALENTI/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — After many years, the Peddler’s Market flea market returns to Naugatuck this weekend.

The Peddler’s Market starts on Sunday on Parcel B, the parking lot adjacent to the Naugatuck Event Center — the former General DataComm building at 6 Rubber Ave. The flea market opens at 6 a.m. and will continue to run every Sunday through November.

The man behind the Peddler’s Market is Tom Murray.

The market’s history dates back to the early 1970s when vendors paid Mary Schilgen to sell their products from her land on New Haven Road where Walmart is now, Murray said. Murray sold fabrics there with his business partner, Gerald Garceau.

The number of vendors grew and the Peddler’s Market was born.

Murray and Garceau eventually took over the Peddlers Market and ran it for more than 20 years at the New Haven Road site.

After Walmart bought the land in the mid-1990s, the Peddlers Market moved about a mile away to rent a borough-owned plot on Horton Hill Road. In 2005, Naugatuck Savings Bank, which is now Ion Bank, bought the property and constructed a bank.

“My partner and I decided we had enough,” Murray said.

Murray, a 74-year-old Naugatuck resident, said he wanted to reopen the market after speaking with Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess about his vision for downtown. The borough recently repurposed the former General DataComm building, which it owns, as an event center.

“He wants to get people into downtown Naugatuck. He is doing a great job,” Murray said. “Hopefully they will walk around the town and patronize the restaurants.”

In March, the borough reached an agreement with Murray for him to rent the land for $800 a month to hold the Peddler’s Market. At the time, Murray said if the market grows and draws more vendors, he will talk with the borough about renting more space.

“I think as soon as it opens it will keep generating more excitement and enthusiasm about not only the Peddlers Market but other events that we will be having at the Parcel B site and the events center,” Hess said.

He said he expects the flea market to expand to become even larger than it had been back in the 20th century.

“Because it adjoins our indoor events center, we can have indoor and/or outdoor shows in a much larger area than most flea markets,” Hess said, adding the former GDC building has 80,000 square feet.

“We have the potential to have a more regional market than just a small local market,” he said. “It’s my hope this will keep expanding and get bigger and bigger.”

Murray said he originally became interested in flea markets while testing the viability of running his own business. He began selling different fabrics at flea markets to gauge interest in his product.

This ultimately led to him opening Creative Fabrics at 100 Church St, Murray said.

“I say if you are thinking of going into business and not sure if it is going to be a success, try it out at a flea market,” Murray said.

During the height of the Peddler’s Market, Murray said it would draw over 100 vendors and have “wall-to-wall buyers.”

“People come down to meet friends and talk to dealers. It’s a good way to pass two or three hours on a Sunday,” Murray said.

While Murray doesn’t know how many vendors or shoppers the market will draw on Sunday, he knows that both will be there.

“Once you get bit by the bug you have to go. There are people who will go from one to another. They are interested in getting a bargain and you never know what you might find,” Murray said. “There is something for everybody there. If you are looking for something specific and don’t find it one week you’ll find it the next.”

The Republican-American contributed to this article.