Anticipation and nervous energy kept Christine M. Schieber out working until the wee hours Friday morning.
Ms. Schieber, owner of a small specialty store, and her "junior junior partner," Jason F. Fullone, were the last vendors to leave the Market on Main, a new flea market that opens for business today.
Like the rest of the merchants and managers of the new market, Ms. Schieber, owner of the Music Box in Hamburg, and her eight year-old son Jason, were working feverishly to finish the last coats of paint and drive the final nail that will transform a forgotten old factory into a trendy new marketplace.
Rae Brothers Inc., Toronto developers, started efforts in October to bring the 650,000-square-foot plant at 2495 Main St., at Jewett Parkway, back to life in the form of a market the size of two football fields.
The Ford Motor Co. built the plant in 1913. It was used to assemble Model T and Model A Fords. During World War II, Bell Aircraft Corp. designed the country's first twin-engine jet fighter planes in the building.
The factory was later used by Trico Products Corp. to make windshield wiper components. Trico closed the plant in 1987.
The developers envision multiple uses for the building's remaining four stories. Those plans could include office, light industrial, additional retail and residential uses.
"Apart from saving an architectural part of Buffalo's history, it will be successful in providing a service to small businesses and consumers," Ms. Schieber said. "There's a great mix of people. I'm excited for the Canadian trade it will attract."
"It gives some merchants a chance to start a business without a lot of backing," said James P. Wilson, the marketing consultant hired by Rae Brothers to get the venture off the ground, hire sales staff and promote the market. Wilson said the company has space for about 400 vendors. Leasing costs $25 per day for a space 10 feet by 10 feet, one vendor said. A typical vendor spends about $100 on rent per weekend.
"It is an opportunity for a small start-up business," Ms. Schieber said. "For a smaller business, your overhead could be your doom. It's inexpensive to locate there right now. Weekends are the heaviest business days so you can capitalize on that with minimal overhead."
Wilson added, "It also allows them to be in a location that generates thousands of people."
Transforming a 75-year-old factory into a massive flea market took about eight months, about $2 million and plenty of patience with the last-minute glitches that arose just days before the opening.
Late this week, the sounds of restoration could still be heard. The banging, clanging and humming of hammers and power drills made normal conversation nearly impossible. Commands to fix the telephones, check the electricity and show vendors to their spots had to be yelled out, heightening the anxiety and anticipation of opening day.
Once the dust settles, a 250,000 square-foot indoor flea market with a carnival atmosphere should appear, Wilson said. Merchants will include a farmer's market, antiques, appliances, collectibles, leather goods, arts, crafts, concessions and a stage for entertainment.
The market will be opened on weekends at first. Market managers predict that hours will increase to six days a week soon.
"I was there 'til midnight setting up booths, building cases and painting," Ms. Schieber said. "I'll be bringing the bulk of the merchandise in (Saturday morning)."
On Wednesday the cement floors, walls and ceilings were still cinder block tan. The factory's copper metal railings, steps and fixtures are now fuchsia, royal blue or aqua marine green. Banners and lamp posts were going up. But at mid-week it still looked like an old factory with pink trimming.