Flea market mania

Lana Meranda

Photo by Deidre Pike

Sunlight glints off the rows of drinking glasses, some with the logos of local casinos and others with hand painted bikinis on the glasses’ … curves. One mug boasts, “World’s Greatest Grandma.” A sign advertises “Daisy BB & pellet gun, $20.” There are shoes and tennis rackets and books and silk flowers and a topless Barbie doll. In a patch of shade on a vacant lot at the corner of Center and Seventh streets, flea market maven Lana Meranda, 48, watches over her wares, along with her partner Roger Betancourt. It turns out that the flea market is just a day job for Meranda, who works as a night clerk at the Thunderbird Lodge in Reno. While Meranda talks about the flea market life, Betancourt sips on a cold beverage and occasionally walks off to talk with friends from the neighborhood.

How often do you set up shop here?

Every time the sun is shining, mostly on weekends. I live nearby, in that pink house. I know the owner of this property.

Where do you get your stuff?

A lot of friends manage or own hotels and motels—weeklies. They bring stuff to me that they’re going to throw out. I put it out. I recycle it. That’s what this state is all about—recycling everything. I have a few antiques.

Are you from Reno?

I’ve lived here about eight years. I’m from Ohio, Michigan … all over, really. I was born in Ohio.

What brought you here?

I was living in Seattle, and I didn’t like it. I was homeless there. I got up the $55 for a bus ticket and came to Reno.

Why Reno?

It’s a tourist trap. (You don’t have to say “trap” in your story.) Within the first three days here, I had a job. … So far, so good. We can leave and travel around, but then we come back here. This is home.

What are today’s blue light specials?

Meranda: We have cups for 5 cents a piece. And free stuffed animals. That’s just to get ’em in to look. I have a lot more in storage.

Betancourt: We have 100 oldies records—ones you can’t find no more—for a dollar a piece. … Except for Elvis.

Meranda: Elvis is probably a good $10, maybe less. (She lowers her voice.) I’d sell it for, pfftt, $4.

What made you think to start a flea market?

My mother-in-law likes flea markets. She’s a flea market buff. She lives in Salinas, Calif. She was over visiting us and someone came by to give us stuff. She said, “Why don’t you start a flea market?”

Do you make much money?

On a good weekend, we’ll sell close to $100. On a bad weekend—$5. Once we sat out here for four days and only made $5. It all depends on other people finding treasures in our trash.