Sayville flea market closes after 31 years

Most vendors have already moved out of the Most vendors have already moved out of the Attias Flea Market and Jewelry Center in Sayville. (Feb. 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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After 31 years in business, Sayville's iconic Attias Flea Market has closed to make way for a discount department store.

The cavernous warehouse off Sunrise Highway had a post-apocalyptic air Saturday as the last of owner Amram Attias' 150 vendors boxed up their wares.

Eager shoppers poked their heads in, hoping for one last weekend bargain, only to be told the flea market was closed for good.

What Attias proudly called Suffolk County's first bazaar is now poised for demolition to make way for a Target. The market closed to the public a week ago.

Reme Rowland, 39, knew that the place where he'd roller-skated as a kid and bought jewelry for girlfriends as an adult was closing. He stopped by anyway to snap a picture and say goodbye.

"Every time you walked in the door here, you got the sense that nothing ever changed," he said. "It's a change of times . . . I feel bad for all the vendors in here. Where are they going?"

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Attias said the market was profitable for many years -- until the recession struck and some of his vendors disappeared.

The 74-year-old native of Morocco, who went to college in France and eventually settled in Northport, got the idea for his bargain-shopping mecca from Middle Eastern open-air marketplaces, or souqs, that he frequented as a child.

Attias said representatives of big-box stores dogged him for years to lease or sell the site. He finally relented, feeling he had no choice.

"It bothers me that all the people that are here -- they are here 25 years, 30 years," he said. "I saw them sending their children to college, buying houses, and it's sad for me personally."

Attias said he is leasing a smaller flea market space in Westbury and expects about 50 vendors to follow.

Other merchants fear losing their loyal eastern Suffolk customers.

That was a factor for Boris Mosh, of Queens, who is moving his family-run shoe store to Sun-Vet Mall in Holbrook after 11 years with Attias.

"Everyone is like family, and he was like the father of the family," Mosh said. "We had a beautiful store over here, but it's closed. What can you do?"

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