(McRae, Ga.) – An 80,000-square-foot building in south-central Georgia, currently home to an active flea market and antique mall, will be sold at auction on Thursday, July 24, at 10:30 a.m. The one-story building, situated on 4.4 acres and boasting direct access to a divided four-lane highway and over two acres of parking, is located in McRae, a quaint, small town in Georgia’s rich agriculture belt.
About 35,000 square feet of the building is now being used for The McRae Marketplace, a combination flea market and antique mall that opened in June 2007. More than 60 vendors have space there, most of them renting 12′ x 12′ booths (for $75 per month) or 8 ‘ 8’ booths (for $65 per month). The other 45,000 square feet is storage space, but it could be used to accommodate more mall vendors.
“Obviously, the new owners can do whatever they want with the building, but right now it’s turnkey as a flea market and antique mall,” said Steve Slocumb of Hudson & Marshall, the Macon, Ga.-based auction house handling the sale. “The property is zoned commercial, and it could be used for any one of a number of good uses, from apparel manufacturing to light industrial to a shipping facility.”
The brick-and-block building was originally used as a sewing plant for Roydon Wear, a maker of women’s apparel. In the early 1990s, Wilkins Industries, a women’s jeanswear manufacturer, purchased the facility and hired its employees. John Wilkins, the owner, said at the time he liked McRae because of the town’s welcoming government, high unemployment rate, convenience of transportation access, the spaciousness of the building itself and, most of all, the area’s good people.
But foreign competition and other factors eventually forced him to shut down the business altogether, and the McRae plant sat unoccupied. For a few years, Mr. Wilkins tried to sell the property, figuring another apparel manufacturer would find it attractive. But when that didn’t happen, he decided the structure would be perfect as a flea market and antique mall. He went to work to make his vision a reality. Subsequent improvements included new paint inside and out; new roofing over the flea market portion; upgraded bathrooms; handicap access and bathroom; and security and sprinkler systems.
The McRae Marketplace opened a little over a year ago, much to the delight of local residents, who don’t even have a Wal-Mart in town, let alone a mall. The business was quickly embraced and became a shopping destination for people in McRae and the surrounding towns of Vidalia, Alamo, Lumber City, Hazelhurst, Eastman and Fitzgerald. It has continued to thrive, despite the fact that no money is spent to market the place. So far, word of mouth has sufficed.
But tragedy struck earlier this year when Mr. Wilkins passed away, leaving the mall in the hands of his children, Ellen Wiley and John Wilkins IV. “The decision to put the building up for sale was not an easy one,” said Ms. Wiley, “but John and I both live out of town, and neither one of us is experienced in running or owning a mall. It’s better turned over to someone who can properly grow the business.”
The McRae Marketplace has been managed since opening by local resident Joy Ricks. She said she’s willing to remain in that capacity for the new owners, assuming they wish to keep it as a mall. “I can see the unused space used for more vendors, but also for things like a beauty shop, a tax preparer’s office and real estate and insurance agencies,” Ms. Ricks said. “But current rules prevent us from selling food.”
The building, situated on one level, is home to a diverse cross-mix of vendors. The sign outside says “Flea Market,” but Ms. Ricks was quick to point our antiques are also sold there. “And the antiques we have here are good antiques, true antiques, from period furniture to decorative items to collectibles. We’ve got Hummel figures, Faberge, Royal Doulton, wonderful glass pieces and more.”
The flea market merchandise includes used clothing (“and all of it is cleaned and ironed before being put up for sale,” Ms. Ricks said proudly); jewelry (some of it antique, and to include diamonds and gold); appliances; and bedding. “I’d say 30 percent of what we sell is new merchandise, and 70 percent is used,” she pointed out. “And we are constantly bringing in new merchandise, every day.”
Vendors do not need to be on-site. In fact, few are. “We display the merchandise and sell it for them,” Ms. Ricks said. “The floor plan is open, to invite browsing and buying. And I’m on my feet all the time, helping folks out and answering questions. There’s so much potential here. Think of what a billboard on the highway or a radio or newspaper ad campaign could do. This place would explode.”
Other features of the sprawling structure (constructed in the early 1950s) and property include ceiling heights of approximately 11-12 feet; concrete floor; great location, in the middle of town; suitable usage for a small distribution or shipping center; two loading bays that can handle two trailers each; nearby restaurants (including the Southern Star and Magnolia Inn); and stable area employers.
In addition, the facility boasts space for up to 200 sewing work stations; three parking lots, able to accommodate about 200 vehicles and large enough to be used for mobile home sales, auto sales, etc.; city utilities; heat and air; power and light at the medium billing rate; a reception area; a break room; general office space (three large offices and twenty smaller offices); and adequate restroom facilities.
McRae is located in Telfair County, home to 12,000 people and a place where 80 percent of the 440 square miles is woodland and 20 percent is farmland. The area is renowned for its excellent hunting and fishing (the world’s biggest large-mouth bass was caught there in 1932 – 22 lbs., 4 oz.). Liberty Square, in McRae, features a 1/12-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty, plus a Liberty Bell.
Despite its small-town feel and seeming remote location, McRae is well situated and may be poised for growth. It is located 154 miles southeast of Atlanta; 155 miles northwest of Jacksonville; 70 miles southeast of Macon; 145 miles west of Savannah; and 103 miles north of Valdosta, Ga. McRae is at the confluence of several U.S. Highways, principally 341, 23 and 441, but to include 319 and 280.
The McRae Marketplace sits mainly on U.S. Highway 341 but enjoys frontage on four paved roads. Anyone interested in purchasing the building at the July 24 auction may call Steve Slocumb at Hudson & Marshall Auction Marketing, toll-free, at (800) 841-9400. A free brochure is also available with a phone call. For more details and photographs, please log on to www.HudsonMarshall.com