Flea Market Fixtures Offer Flags, T-Shirts

Jul 05, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill Ralph Welsing co-owner of Ralph’s Flags and Z-Line Beachwear.

At the Manahawkin Flea Market, it would be hard to find anyone who has lasted longer than Ralph Welsing and Bruce Zabelski. They are the owners of Ralph’s Flags and Z-Line Beachwear, respectively, and are both in their 28th summer at the Bay Avenue establishment that is open on weekends.

What they have in common is merchandise with a local flair, as Welsing has garden flags, mailbox covers and floormats inscribed with “Beach Haven West,” “Long Beach Island” and “Barnegat.” Zabelski has the communities printed on his wide array of T-Shirts, along with “Jersey Girl” and other similar themes.

“I like to have a lot of nautical themes,” said Welsing. “I think that’s what a lot of people are looking for when shopping here.”

Welsing also has a large selection of pole flags, featuring American flags as well as the special blue flag that supports police officers and red flags in honor of firefighters.

The 77-year-old retiree said prior to his flea market gig, he had an ice cream stand in Medford. “I also sold small gifts,” he said. “One of my customers told me about the Manahawkin Flea Market and thought that I should try to sell over here.”

When he set up shop in Manahawkin, Welsing expanded his inventory to include flags. “One dealer told me he could make flags with names of towns printed on them,” he said. “So I thought thought I’d try selling them.”

It turned out to be a fairly easy sell. “People have a lot of community spirit and pride,” Welsing said. 

When not set up at the flea market, Welsing can be found at special events. “I go to the Chowderfest and the Cranberry Festival.”

Zabelski can be found selling his T-shirts during several flea/craft markets in Beach Haven over the summer. Unlike Welsing, Zabelski is not retired as he and his wife Terri tend to their Z-Line store in Lavallette.

He said the company screen prints all their shirts, and have sizes ranging from small to double extra large. “Our most popular shirts are the ones that sell for $5 each,” he said.

Terri Zabelski said while business has been good, it was better 20 or so years ago. “You didn’t have all those dollars stores popping up,” she said. “People also do a lot of shopping online, so doing business has changed.”

But outdoor flea markets still have appeal, she said. “It’s great to walk around in the sun and shop. When people come to the shore area on weekends, they like to enjoy the nice weather, so this gives them a shopping alternative.” 

— Eric Englund







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