Great Smokies Flea Market manager explains decision to open during covid-19 outbreak

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SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The manager of Tennessee’s most visited flea market, Ronnie West, explained his decision to open this weekend was about timing.

While he said he considered the risk to the public prior to making the call, he said they’re opened because he couldn’t give enough notice to his vendors and visitors to close the Great Smokies Flea Market.

He does plan to close next weekend for cleaning. In that time, he plans to bleach floors, scrub surfaces and counters, or as he put it, “everything that’s been touched.”

The response from his vendors, he said, is split in half.

West said their customers range in both age and health. When asked if he felt like their lives were at risk, West said, “Our lives are at risk every day. We’re just doing all we can.”

While some of the vendors have hand sanitizer, you won’t find an abundance available to shoppers. And if you’ve ever gone shopping there, you likely know it’s difficult to distance yourself, by six feet, from others.

West encouraged the public to pray Friday, for a cure or that the virus disappears, because for his vendors, he said, “it’s their bread and butter. For a lot of people, they don’t open, they don’t eat,” he said.

Philip Ellis, owner of Phil’s Flowers, Saddles, and Cones, was pleased with the decision to open.

He explained because they’re already only open three days, closing one weekend could mean major financial losses for his family.

“This is when we make the majority of our money, especially for me and what I do, between March and May,” he said. Ellis estimated 30% of his business comes from out-of-state business.

While the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in our region is still low, compared to some parts of the U.S., West said their tourists are from all over the country.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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