Red Barn a magnet for flea-market shoppers

Whether you're interested in a casual stroll down nostalgias lane or want some of the most beautiful and fresh produce the area has to offer, the Red Barn Flea Market is the place to go. The market at the intersection of U.S. 301 and U.S. 41 has been a destination for locals and snowbirds alike for more than 27 years. A total of 650 booths dot the 125,000 square feet of retail space under one roof. The Red Barn also has 20,000 square feet of outdoor vendor space. Shopping for flowers or plants? You'll find a great variety here. Jewelry? Absolutely, as well as antiques, perfume and all sorts of knick-knacks. A personal favorite: Try Maria's, a Mexican eatery that serves up mouth-watering tacos filled with chicken or spicy pork. The Red Barn was originally a lumber company in the 1960s. It was converted to a flea market in 1981. Fire from a shorted circuit claimed the building in 1996, causing the owners to build a new structure from the ground up. Hordes of tourists flock to the Red Barn in winter months, and the flea market has gained quite a reputation as a fun place to spend a lazy day poking around its many treasures. In May, the flea market gained national attention by being featured in Southern Living magazine. The Red Barn attracts as many as 45,000 visitors each week during the peak of tourist season. Owners of the Red Barn made things a little more comfortable for visitors last June by adding a sorely needed asset: air conditioning. They installed a half-million-dollar A/C system consisting of 24 five-ton units that cover the majority of the 125,000 square feet of enclosed space. The market is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Monday. It also has a plaza area with 40 shops that is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday at 1707 First St. E. To contact the Red Barn, call (941) 747-3794.