By Marlene Betancourt ’17
A fire started at the Buyers Flea Market, a large indoor and outdoor market with dozens of vendors, which is located near Division and Cicero, on March 8. The fire caused the building, which many informally refer to as “La Garra,” to collapse, destroying thousands of dollars of supplies and merchandise that belonged to the many independent vendors. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
The flea market had been serving the Humboldt Park area since the 1980s, starting with eight vendors on the roof of an old parking garage and then making its way up to 100 different vendors in the indoor market, and eventually becoming Chicago’s largest indoor flea market.
Although the building is located 1.4 miles away from Pritzker, the ashy atmosphere and strong odor of the burning building–and its contents–could be smelled by students in classrooms with open windows and students during P.E running a mile, causing many to get head aches.
To many at Pritzker, the flea market was a hang-out spot on weekends or even a job for them or their parents. Junior Beatriz Roman describes her emotional reaction towards being told by her friend about the fire breaking out, “I did not believe her. Inside myself, I was praying for [what she said] not to be true, but when I found out it was true, my heart just stopped.” Roman, along with her mother, had run their own food stand at the market for the past seven years and is just one of the many in the community affected by this tragedy.
“Everyone was very devastated. There were people there that made a living off their stands and now they have nothing,” stated junior Saray Landa who has also worked at the flea market for seven years, helping her father with his construction work stand.
The flea market’s environment was very friendly. It was always crowded, but all the venders greeted their customers with kindness. The flea market also had a diversity of food, mentioned freshman Cristian Crespo who would visit the flea market once in awhile.
Since the flea market only opened on weekends, there were no tragedies.
Despite feeling depressed about the event, Roman feels like this will make her stronger, “ In front of me, I was seeing how everything that my mom and I have worked…but I know I have to keep working hard.”
According to the Buyers Flea Market Facebook page, they do plan to rebuild, but there has not been a full plan made.