Indoor flea market has everything but the kitchen sink
Thursday, Feb. 14
Empty wooden ammunition boxes line the front of Slindy's indoor flea market in Culpeper. Photo by Adam Goings
By Ray Finefrock
Times-Democrat Staff Writer
The big bright yellow building beckons travelers just off U.S. 29 on Germanna Highway on the outskirts of Culpeper.
The 15-foot metal brightly colored decorative rooster from South America standing near the entrance to the store might be the first clue that this place is different.
Slindy's bills itself as an "indoor flea market" but it's more like a theme park.
In the market for a 1958 Swedish Army battle jacket? Check out "Military Surplus Land." How about an antique table? Try "Furniture Land." Something unique for the grandchild? It's probably in "Toy Land."
Slindy's is best described as a combination of Antiques Road Show meets Pawn Stars meets Doomsday Preppers.
Don and Linda Hitt have been at their current 7,500-square-foot location since 2006. The store originated in Fredericksburg.
"A lot of flea markets have individual dealers selling things, but we do not," Don said. "We buy a vast array of items."
"But we don't like to handle junk. We're looking for good new and used things," he said.
Linda explained how the indoor flea market got its unusual name.
The store's name is a combination of Sandy and Linda. Sandy was a good friend and business partner.
"Eventually I bought her out, but we didn't want to change the name because we had built up name recognition," Linda said.
The Hitts buy items at a "reasonable price," add a small markup and turn them over very quickly.
"That way, it's a win-win for us and the customer," Don said.
And if an item interests one of the Hitts, they'll purchase it and then figure out what to do with it.
"I just got in some DC-3-C47 airplane parts," said Don. "The C-47 is the military version of the DC-3. I'm not sure what I'll do with them yet."
Although Don does most of the talking on this particular afternoon, he is quick to recognize others who have helped make Slindy's a success.
"I got a lot of my training from Maurice O'Bannon at the old Sperryville Emporium in the 80s," Don said. "And I couldn't do any of this without my wife's help."
Merchandise for the store comes from all over the world, especially the growing collection of military surplus.
There are items from Sweden, Czechoslovakia (before the country split up), the Soviet Union, Switzerland, Croatia and Egypt.
"We get our share of survivalists and Doomsday Preppers in here," Don said. "But a lot of the people who buy items here are outdoorsmen and actually use the items on a regular basis."
Don said the military surplus part of Slindy's expanded about four years ago.
"I was at a gun show and met a gentleman that I was in the Boy Scouts with in the '60s," Don said.
The man had been going to Europe, buying containers of military surplus. But his health failed and he was stuck with two 50-foot containers full of military surplus..
"I told him I would take the stuff and sell it. I found out there is a tremendous market, so I started searching on the world market," Don said.
He has been to Germany twice and has a broker there who helps him get unusual European military surplus items.
"My background when I worked for Mr. O'Bannon was new goods, antiques and new furniture and Linda's background is antiques, used furniture and thrift items," said Don. "We make a good team."
"We can walk into a 3,000 square-foot house full of stuff and within 10 minutes make a bid on it," said Linda. "I don't always know how much something is worth, but I know what I can get for it."
Don said Linda's ability to price things quickly and his ability to move things quickly have made Slindy's a success.
A visitor asked Don about the most unusual request he has gotten.
"I was at a place the other day and they had sold several old caskets," he said. "They wanted to know if I had any old caskets for sale. That's something I have never bought or sold."
"We sell some pretty weird stuff here at times," said Linda.
Don said he currently has two reels of film he doesn't know what to do with.
"They were shot at a German SS training camp near Salzburg, Austria," he said. "There's nothing Holocaust-related. They are of training and the mess hall during World War II. I asked the folks at the Library of Congress and they want me to donate them."
Linda said Slindy's probably has well over 10,000 individual items.
"My favorite thing went out of the here on Wednesday," she said. "It was a counter from the old Sullivan's store in Culpeper."
Added Don, "I collect military coats and my favorite is a hooded parka used by a West German officer in the 1980s. It is a size XXL."
Slindy's carries everything from baby cribs to 50-caliber ammunition storage cans.
What about the kitchen sink?
"We've had ones from time to time, but we don't have one right now," Don said, laughing.
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