For the second time in almost four months, the North Myrtle Beach Flea Market has been rocked by a fire that destroyed the businesses of more than a dozen vendors.
“I thought it was a joke,” said Mickey Webb, owner of Webb’s Discount Merchandise, of a phone call he got from another vendor to tell him the news.
Webb said he tried to find information about the fire on the news but when he couldn’t find anything, he turned on the security cameras at his other business, the Happy Shack Grill.
“All of the sudden the power went off and the cameras went out,” Webb said. “I thought [the Happy Shack Grill] went up.”
Once that happened, Webb made his way to the flea market to inspect the scene.
“I saw where they were still putting the fire out and they had dogs, I guess trying to find out if it was intentionally set,” Webb said.
At 2:45 p.m., Horry County Fire Rescue crews were dispatched to the flea market, according to a tweet from HCFR’s Twitter page. Then a second alarm was called. According to Horry County Fire Rescue spokesperson Tony Casey, a cause for the fire has yet to be determined.
Barron Medlock, manager of the flea market, said he was in shock when he got the call.
“I just couldn’t believe it, considering it just happened,” Medlock said, referring to the fire that took place at the flea market on February 6.
The North Myrtle Beach Flea Market off Highway 17 in Little River is no stranger to fire. On February 6, a three-alarm fire ripped through one of the buildings, leaving one person injured. Much like Thursday's fire, vendors who fell victim to February's fire lost everything.
Medlock confirmed that Thursday's fire displaced 15 vendors — and each of the 15 vendors experienced a total loss. Medlock couldn’t find the right words when trying to put together a message of encouragement to those vendors who had lost everything.
“We just have to take one foot and put it in front of the other one and go forward,” Medlock said.
Jo Stuckey, owner of JoJo’s, had minor damage to her business. Stuckey stuck to one word to describe the entire ordeal — sad.
“This place has been here forever and a lot of vendors have been here forever,” Stuckey said. “All of them, this is what they do for their livelihood. It’s sad.”
Webb said that he lost at least $5,000 worth of merchandise in his store, with items ranging from hair dryers and curling irons to water coolers and t-shirts.
Medlock said that they do plan to rebuild but with the cost of building supplies being so high, the rebuilding process won’t be immediate.
“We will probably have to wait until [building supply prices] come down a bit,” Medlock said.
Medlock added that on Friday, a telephone pole had caught fire near the area where Thursday’s fire took place and a fire truck was on scene helping put it out.
The fire at the flea market comes a month after a wind-driven wildfire went through the Loris area. With the lack of rain that the area has seen recently, the recent tragedy makes Medlock nervous.
“Everything is so dry, hadn’t had any rain at all,” Medlock said. “We just saw that [telephone] pole smoldering, had to get cut down because we were scared to have something else catch on fire.”
Despite nerves being rattled a bit, vendors remain optimistic ahead of the busy Memorial Day weekend and summer along the Grand Strand.
“I prefer to lean on the optimistic side of things and say ‘Well, we’re going to get better,’” Webb said. “You just kind of got to lick your wounds and go.”
Both Webb and Medlock urged residents to come out this holiday weekend to help support the flea market.
“Keep coming out and supporting the vendors,” Medlock said.
Webb said he heard that tables for the flea market have been all been rented out for Saturday and expects a big turnout.
“Tomorrow is going to be a different story,” Webb said. “We’re just going to go with what we got and hope for the best.”