He hadn’t slept for those 32 hours, ever since the first calls came in that the West Georgia Flea Market, the business he owned, had caught fire. What Dyer surmised is 25 percent of the market’s vendor space was destroyed in a two-alarm fire early Sunday morning.
“This has just been exhausting,” Dyer said. “This is a family-owned business, you know. If this was a corporation, it would be different and maybe a little easier.”
Carroll County Fire Chief Tracy Smith said fire investigators were on the scene yesterday and will be back today, but he said he doesn’t expect to know the cause and origin of the fire anytime soon.
“They’re interviewing vendors and people who had booths there in the area that burned,” Smith said. “I doubt we’ll know anything about the origin or the cause until later on in the week.”
Smith said the first call came from a motorist passing by the flea market on Highway 27 around 3:45 a.m. Sunday. The fire shut down part of Hwy. 27 and kept crews busy for hours Sunday morning.
Despite the hardships and the damage, Dyer said he plans to have the flea market, affectionately known to its vendors and regulars as the “Dirt Mall,” open this weekend.
“We just want to thank the community for the support we’ve already received and all the phone calls we’ve gotten,” Dyer said. “We plan to be open this Saturday morning, and we want everyone to come out and join us.”
Dyer promised a “safe, good environment” for weekend shoppers who may be worried about another incident.
The fire wiped out the southernmost facility on the market’s property, what Dyer and the vendors referred to as “A Building.”
For this Saturday, Dyer said he plans to have tables set up on the other side of the property for the vendors whose booths were destroyed in the fire.
But some vendors may not have anything to sell.
Joe George, who operates a record store in the market with his business partner, lost all his merchandise, as well as some personal belongings. Many of their personal records were on display.
“Some of the records I had were some of the first records I ever bought,” George said. “Saved my allowance to buy them.”
Dyer said he, his wife and two sons will do whatever they can to ensure that the vendors are taken care of.
“We are committed to our vendors, and we try to do what we can,” he said.
Dyer bragged on the flea market, saying it had become “like a family,” with vendors from opposite sides of the expansive market knowing each other and commiserating with the unlucky ones.
“This has been here for 30 years, and we plan on it being here for 30 more years,” Dyer said. “We know it’s going to be tough, but we’re strong people, and we’re going to build it back.”
Sunday was a bad day for the market, Dyer said, but Monday was better.
“We’re sad, but thankful,” Dyer said. “Because it could have been much, much worse. We’ve still got 75 percent to work with.”
The flea market is expected to be open this weekend, rain or shine.