Monday, July 15, 2024

Sales pick up at Saltese Swap Meet

Mineral Independent | July 10, 2024 12:00 AM

The weather was ideal and the mix of vendors had the shoppers/browsers thoroughly entertained at the Saltese Swap Meet and Flea Market last week.

Over 20 merchants committed but one canceled and a few were no-shows, leaving the 14 participating with potential customers from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho by looking at the license plates. 

Teri Mangold and her husband Dave own Mangolds Motel & Store in Saltese. They were instrumental in starting the sale before St. Regis began its huge three-day flea market each Memorial Day weekend. 

“They’d borrow our signs for their swap meet which had to be about 35 or 37 years ago because we’ve been here 40 years,” Teri said. “Once St. Regis got rolling, we kind of stopped for several years and then started up again. We had it in the old schoolhouse back then.” 

This year a vendor’s spot was $85 for the full three days and it is always the weekend following July 4.

The Wickard’s from Osburn, Idaho said it’s a hobby, but they’re tickled when they make a little money. 

“The laser engraving is new,” said Scott, “and it’s all done through AI. On this one, I typed in that I wanted to see a rustic log cabin on a mountain lake with the sun coming up, and AI did that,” as he points to what looks like is an old-fashioned black and white print framed in weathered wood. Melissa said it takes about 3.5 hours for the laser to burn an 11-inch by 14-inch picture. His large photographs, which look like they belong in a National Geographic magazine, are from pictures he took when living in Alaska, but he does have some of the Clark Fork River in Sanders County.

It’s at least a four-hour drive from Harrison, Montana, but Angie Hamlin and her two dogs had set up Thursday evening. 

“I come up for the (St. Regis) Flea Market each year and I’d been hearing more and more about this one in Saltese so here I am for my second time,” she laughs.

She used to have an antique store in Ennis. 

“Now I do a few shows and hit flea markets like this and get to camp next to the beautiful St. Regis River. If I don’t make a dime, I get to camp by the river.” 

Hamlin said she’s been doing this Gypsy lifestyle for about 25 years during the warm months and finds most of her merchandise at other flea markets. 

“I get to go on ‘picks’ once in a while and that’s where you can get really lucky on antiques and rare finds.” 

A pick is a special invitation to attend a walk-through of a home where the family is selling everything but allowing some people to have the first shot at items before they are bundled up for auctions or secondhand stores. 

“Sometimes you will find a collection of figurines or flatware or knives that are being sold as a unit. That’s fun and especially if you know of a person looking for something like that,” she smiles.

Due to interstate construction, eastbound I-90 traffic wanting to ride the Hiawatha Trail must exit at Saltese and drive back to Lookout Pass for their tickets. Because of this detour, Mangold said they were surprised at the number of riders. 

“Early in the morning right now, if you sit out here it’s almost a nonstop line of traffic. They come off and loop around onto the old frontage road to go back. I mean the Hiwatha helps with our business and now I have a better idea of how popular it is.”

A couple of the organizers who requested to remain anonymous said that they start putting the event together "during the winter when there’s nothing to do but snowmobile and play cribbage." 

Many vendors are repeat, so they don’t even respond but they show up, set up in the same location they always have, and pay the fee once they’ve sold enough to cover the cost.

    Saltese Flea Market vendors all reported they would participate again next year which is the first weekend after the 4th of July. (Monte Turner/Mineral Independent)
    Tella Jensen and her friend, Nasya O’Connor, were heading back home to Ekalaka, Montana but saw the signs, pulled off I-90 at Exit 10 and Jensen found a new winter coat. (Monte Turner/Mineral Independent)
    One display looked like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation with the number of antlers he had for sale. All came from the west end of Mineral County, he claimed.