The new find among bargain hunters and frugalistas is Cal State East Bay's Sunday morning flea market on the hilltop Hayward campus.
Open from 6 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m. every Sunday year-round, the friendly and low-key market offers antiques, jewelry, clothing, car parts, tools, groceries and sundries—basically, a little bit of everything—at sub-garage-sale prices.
Almost all the vendors are from Hayward or Castro Valley.
I found this little gem of a market while walking up the Fairview hill from my house to get some exercise. It's been open since September —that's how little exercise I get—and its vendors are eager to spread the word.
"I love this little market. It's got the best atmosphere ever," says Hayward vendor June Hyatt. "Example. I gave a good deal to a customer on some music. We got to talking about music, and he asked me what I liked, and I told him Al Green. The next week he came by and gave me a mix tape of Al Green."
Hyatt sells dishes and other collectibles, curated with a loving eye. Other vendors sell everything from grocery items and toiletries to car tires, kids' clothing and toys, tools, baseball cards and Hawaiian shirts. (Check the slide show to get an idea what's on offer).
Until the market builds a customer base, the charge to vendors is kept very low—just $15 a week during July and $20 a week during August (and $30 thereafter).
The benefit of this low rent is passed along to customers, so that people needing to be super-frugal in these tough times can stretch their dollar farther.
A box of 40 Tampax is $1, for example, as compared with $4-$5 in a drugstore or supermarket. Other items that rarely are offered at food pantries, such as dish soap or shampoo, are at comparable low prices.
Antiques, kids' items and collectibles are also very affordable. I found a beautiful North African vase for 50 cents from a very popular vendor who advertises his inventory at "Stupid Prices!"
For years, Cal State—then Cal State Hayward—was home to a weekend auto-parts swap meet, and "Hayward Hills Swap Meet" is this market's official name.
"But don't call it a swap meet! Call it a flea market!" exclaims old-timer Jack Harrington, who sells vintage books, jewelry and implements such as magnifying glasses. Harrington says people still wander into the market looking for auto parts, though other types of goods predominate.
"At other markets, like Santa Cruz, I have to spend the night in my car," Hyatt says. "This is such a welcome change."
The current market's operator, Outdoor Marketplace Management, LLC, welcomes people who want to sell on a one-time or occasional basis, including Castro Valley or Hayward residents who want to offload surplus household goods or collectibles but don't have a good location for a garage sale. Also welcome are local crafters who have quilts, paintings or other works to sell.
If you would like to sell things at the market, phone 925-273-4312 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also just show up between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Sunday mornings. Space rent is payable in cash on arrival.
The best and most scenic way to get there from Castro Valley is to take Foothill/A Street to Second Street, then go left (uphill) on Second to Campus Drive.
(Mr. Bee, BTW, was an influential state assemblyman who brought lots of pork back to his home district, including this very campus as well as the Hayward airport. He lost his race for the speakership to Jesse Unruh of "Money is the mother's milk of politics" fame, ensuring that few people outside Hayward would ever know his name.)
The flea market is in Lot K; follow the yellow signs.
Parking is free for the flea market. Restrooms are in the Art and Education Building behind the flea market.
Not much else is happening Sundays on the Cal State campus during the summer (the library is open 1-5 p.m., though the Starbucks next to it is, sadly, closed on weekends for the summer). Vendors sell food and cold drinks at the market. No alcohol or pets allowed, please.