Economic development planned in East Town

Can anything good come from these ashes?

Undoubtedly this is a question drivers by have asked many times while passing this once booming hub of the ‘60s and ‘70s. After Orange doubled in size overnight during the shipbuilding age and the old East Shopping plaza was home to places like Weingarten’s, Eckerd, Weiner’s and Sav-Mor, one can’t help asking, “what next?”

Fire has since consumed the Weingarten’s building. The old shopping strip has rested dormant for 10 years and 300 acres of undeveloped Riverside property and a Navy Park National Historic District are a stone’s throw away.

So business owner Billy Snyder got what some would call a crazy idea. Some people have a knack for looking at a rock and seeing a four-star hotel. In essence, about three years ago, it’s the sort of vision this third-generation car salesman began to have.

Only from this rubble, he didn’t see a hotel. Instead, he saw a place called Orange Trade Days.

This spring, Snyder plans to open the doors to 19,000 square feet of indoor space, inviting vendors from Winnie, Houston, Lake Charles, Canton and local areas to sell their wares.

The future home of Orange Trade Days will be housed across from the water tower and Solomon Johnson Park at 200 W. Turrett Ave.

“What I normally do is buy and sell properties and this property is for sale right now. This place here, I’ve had people interested in it from California, Australia. They don’t want to buy something that they don’t have vision for. So I said a once-a-month thing would be perfect for me and the local vendors,” Snyder said.

The initial plan would involve a late April, early May opening on rotating weekends with other major market circuits, such as Winnie and Canton.

Orange Trade Days would be open third or fourth Saturdays and, at first, give vendors two booth sizes for individual space. While only 19,000 square feet will be ready to go the beginning of spring, an additional 17,000 will be added.
“I want to make everything very low priced, including the vendors’ spots,” Snyder said. Indoor vendors should expect to spend around $50 to $100 per month for their 8 by 8 or 10 by 10 space.

Eventually, there will be space for 250 vendors, according to Snyder.

Career flea market-goers will find proximity to Interstate 10, free parking on seven acres of pavement, public bathrooms and the ability to store their wares in an inside facility particularly attractive.
Snyder sees providing ADT security and manned security a necessity, especially for the long-term use of out-of-town vendors.
Shopping options will include antiques, consignment stores, a shop with handmade tailor suits, jewelry vendors, embroidery and fresh produce.

Snyder is also offering local farmers and gardeners free space and running water to maintain their fresh produce during the busy season. Lower-priced spaces will be available for outside vendors in front of the old Weingarten’s.

Several guestbook entries on the Orange Trade Days Web site expressed excitement over having access to fresh produce and jam for cooking.

“Anytime there’s a trade day type of venture it’s good for your county,” said Bobby Fillyaw, executive director of Orange County Economic Development Corp. “Because it draws money from outside the community.

“I believe the potential is very good. “We have lots of potential there. It’s an opportunity to breathe new life into there. It will depend on how well it’s managed and marketed.”

For vendors already involved in the current Farmer’s Market in the Big Lots parking lot, this will provide double exposure.

“If he (Snyder) gets it (Orange Trade Days) going, both events would be compatible,” said Darlene Zavada, director of the Orange Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We started the Farmer’s Market in the spring two years ago.”

Over the need for more space and a more visible location, Farmer’s Market organizers moved from Lion’s Den Park to the present Big Lots. The market re-opens to shoppers beginning this spring and continues each Saturday.

For further details or information on how to reserve a booth, call Orange Trade Days Management at (409) 883-4344, or go to