The Opa-locka Hialeah Flea market will close on Sep. 30 after nearly four decades, causing hundreds of immigrant small business owners to pack and relocate.
Bernadette Guerrier, a 79-year-old native of Haiti, set up shop at the flea market located between Hialeah, Miami Lakes and Miami Gardens 36 years ago.
“I sell aluminum, I sell bedspreads, I sell sheets, I sell everything for the house,” Guerrier said. “That’s why I’ve stayed so long because when someone comes they see I have everything.”
The property spanning over 40 acres was bought for $80 million by Gramercy Property Trust in 2017, a real estate investment company based in New York. The Miami Herald reports the company was later purchased by real-estate fund Blackstone, whose developers at Link Logistics plan to turn the property into a complex of six buildings for commercial and logistics companies.
The Opa-locka Hialeah flea market closing is the latest example of gentrification and displacement of mom and pop shops, following two other markets located in predominantly Black areas, Flea Market USA and Carol Mart, closing in the last seven years.
Business was slow even before the pandemic, Guerrier said, speaking with The Haitian Times on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon, a couple of hours before closing time. On weekdays, she may only see one or two people. But sales made during the weekend keeps business afloat.
“I stay here because I have a lot of friends,” Guerrier said. “I like this flea market, I make money. If you go to another place and don’t make money you lose because you’re supposed to pay every month.”
Guerrier rents two booths at the Opa-locka Hialeah Flea Market to fit all of her merchandise . When she relocates to The North Miami 7th Ave Flea Market, she will be paying higher rent for a booth about a third of the size of what she has now.
Other Haitian vendors are relocating to a nearby indoor space at the retail outlet, Atlantic Hosiery.
Guerrier said her plan is to keep a storage of items at home, and restock her supply weekly.
Guerrier immigrated to Florida from Haiti in August of 1980. Her journey took one month with time spent in Cuba. She used to visit her family in Haiti yearly, but since her mother died it has been less frequent. She has siblings and children in New Jersey and Canada and a son that lives in Miami.
“I keep working and working because you’re supposed to pay your bills,” Guerrier said.
She said she’s able to pay her rent and insurance bills with the financial support of her son.
Some of her friends at the Opa-locka Hialeah Flea Market also plan to move to the flea market on 7th Ave, but Guerrier expressed apprehension about the future.
“Now I don’t know what will happen next year because I don’t know what will happen when I leave this flea market and go to another one,” Guerrier said. “I like God – maybe he will send [customers] to me.”