Attorney Dickie McClellion laughed when he was asked whether Wal-Mart was buying the 63-acre Jockey Lot in northern Anderson County.
“I wondered when someone from the newspaper was going to call me,” McClellion said. “I have been asked that question 500 times in the last two weeks.”
The sprawling flea market on U.S. 29 attracts more than 1,000 vendors every weekend and a couple million visitors a year.
But rumors that Wal-Mart might be purchasing the site for a distribution center lit up the call center at the county’s 911 office, Jockey Lot manager Ricky Spearman said.
“Anderson County called us three or four weeks ago and said they’d answered over 200 calls,” Spearman said. “I think it scares everybody more than anything.”
Anderson County Lt. Garland Major confirmed people were calling 911 asking about the Jockey Lot, though not as many as McClellion had heard.
“We got a couple calls,” he said. “Yes, we do get strange calls.”
Asked whether people might not realize 911 is for emergencies only, he replied: “You’d think.”
The Jockey Lot’s puppy-dog alley, its nearly 130,000 square feet of indoor vendor space, acres of open concrete tables for family yard sales and deep-fried treats and biscuits give it a festive feel every weekend of the year.
McClellion bought the land and set up the flea market in the late 1970s after a visit to Mexico. He wanted to bring an open market to Anderson, he said.
McClellion said he has no intention of selling the Jockey Lot but had second thoughts when he heard about the rumored Wal-Mart offer of $40 million.
“I got to tell my secretary that one!” he said. “We don’t want to run nobody off, but I don’t know who would be crazy enough to pay me $40 million.”
He said he has other business ventures he has a part share in that do run into big numbers, and he postulated a bleacher conversation at one of his boy’s baseball games perhaps was misheard and repeated with embellishment.
He said he also hasn’t been seen at the Jockey Lot much recently because of family commitments. That and the impending departure of Spearman, he said, might also be contributing to ill ease at the flea market.
“This rumor has been so persistent,” he said. “I got one that this will be our last weekend.”
He said the Jockey Lot will be open another 20 years if he has anything to say about it.
Contact Anna B. Mitchell at 593-8919 or firstname.lastname@example.org.