Economy & Business: Bug-Eyed over Flea Markets

Buyers have the itch; dealers get some scratch

As many as 15,000 bargain hunters cram the market's six acres each weekend, rummaging through wares displayed at 400 stalls, haggling with sellers and walking away with treasures—and junk—of every description. Fuzzy stuffed animals and live parrots. Miniature Japanese pagodas and bonsai trees. Madonna and child statuettes. Sea shells and natural sponges. "This," exults Mary Wright, "is the last bastion of free enterprise. My God, what a business it is!"

She is praising the enterprise that she and her husband run in Houston: a flea market, that most elementary form of commerce. All across...

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