New owner wants to turn old Roanoke flea market into self storage

Published: Jan. 27, 2018 at 12:09 AM EST
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Years ago, in it's heyday, Happy's Flea Market and Mall drew consistent weekend crowds. The building eventually fell into disrepair, the vendors were kicked out and the property went up for sale.

For two years, it's been consistently quiet.

"I have been inside, it's quite a challenge to be inside," said Jim Cherney.

He heads up Cherney Development. He bought the property last month for $950,000 after looking at it for almost a year.

"There's a lot of, I guess it could best be detritus that's been left behind," he said, pointing through the windows.

It's a mess inside but Cherney doesn't want to tear the 89,018 square foot building down.

He's working to turn it into a self storage facility.

"Just that stuff alone is just a giant thing for the community," said Wendy Jones, Executive Director of the Williamson Road Area Business Association. She's all for the idea, hoping it'll tie into the big project she's been working on to revitalize stretches of the road.

"Whenever you take a vacant, dilapidated piece of property and you get it viable again, that's huge, just huge," she said.

Next door is Exotics and Aquatics pet store. Manager Tony Ardila said he remembers when Happy's was keeping busy.

“On weekends, Happy’s brought a lot of customer’s onto this side of town," he said.

Even though Ardila said the pet store opened after Happy's was closed, the pet store can still feel the slump of a slow weekend. He's looking forward to having something next door to help bring customers around.

“I think it’s a really great idea," Ardila said. "I think as much as we can use that space for the wellness of the community the better."

After Cherney Development finalized the purchase at the end of December, Cherney said they began clearing things out of the building. But on January 15, they received a legal Stop Work order from the city because of asbestos found in the tiles of the building. Cherney said they stopped hauling stuff out and will wait for the go-ahead from the city which is testing for asbestos until January 29.

The property is zoned for a "Commercial large site." Cherney said he will have to request a special permit for the storage center. Storage, he said, is his real estate specialty. He is still working on permitting for his other property at the old Sheppard Auto Parts building. He said he is also working to turn that property into an "innovative, urban" self storage facility. If all goes according to plan, he hopes to open both facilities by October. A storage center at Happy's will employ at least four people.

But self storage isn't the only idea Cherney has stored away. He said he is studying the market around this old market - to see if business space or multi-family housing might turn a happy profit. Cherney said he welcomes any input from the community.

"I think if we can provide a commercial setting for those entrepreneurs, I'll benefit and certainly the entrepreneur will as will the neighborhood," he said. "...My company’s big on Roanoke. We have a lot in store.”