Slindy’s has something for everyone
© Culpeper Times
Proprietors: Don and Linda Hitt
Address: 801 Germanna Hwy
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m
The big bright yellow building beckons travelers just off Route 29 on Germanna Highway.
A 15-foot metal multi-colored decorative rooster from South America standing near the entrance to the store might be your first clue that this place is different.
Slindy's is billed as an “indoor flea market” but it's more like a theme park.
Are you in the market for a 1958 Swedish Army battle jacket? Check out “Military Surplus Land.” How about an antique table? Try “Furniture Land.” Something unique for that grandchild? You'll probably find it in “Toy Land.”
To best describe Slindy's think Antiques Road Show meets Pawn Stars meets Doomsday Preppers.
Don and Linda Hitt have been at their current 7,500-square-foot location since 2006. Before that they had a space at the Culpeper Town Center less than half the size of the current one from 2001 to 2006. Slindy's originated in Fredericksburg.
“We have kind of an unusual situation,” said Don. “A lot of flea markets have individual dealers selling things, but we do not. We buy a vast array of items. We're not just stuck buying one thing. But we don't like to handle junk. We're looking for good new and used things.”
The Hitt's sales philosophy is to purchase an item at a reasonable price, add a small markup and turn it over very quickly.
“That way it's a win-win for us and the customer,” Don said.
And if an item interests one of the Hitts, they'll purchase it and then figure out how to market it.
“I just got in some DC-3-C47 airplane parts,” said Don. “ The C-47 is the military version of the DC-3. I'm not sure what I'll do with them yet.”
Although Don does most of the talking on this particular afternoon he is quick to recognize others who have helped make Slindy's a success.'
“I got a lot of my training from Maurice O'Bannon at the old Sperryville Emporium in the 80s,” Don said. “And I couldn't do any of this without my wife's help.”
Merchandise for the store comes from all over the world. That is perhaps most evident in the ever-growing military surplus section.
There are items from Sweden, Czechoslovakia (before the country split up), the Soviet Union, Switzerland, Croatia and Egypt.
“We get our share of survivalists and Doomsday Preppers in here,” Don said. “But a lot of the people who buy items here are outdoorsman and actually use the items on a regular basis.”
Don said the military surplus part of Slindy's expanded about four years ago.
“I was at a gun show and met a gentleman that I was in the Boy Scouts with in the 60s,” Don said. “He had been going to Europe and buying containers of military surplus. He was in bad health and said he was stuck with two 50-foot containers filled with stuff. I told him I would take the stuff and sell it. I found out there is a tremendous market so I started searching on the world market.”
Don has been to Germany twice and has a broker there who helps him get unusual European military surplus items.
“My background when I worked for Mr. O'Bannon was new goods, antiques and new furniture and Linda's background is antiques, used furniture and thrift items.,” said Don. “We make a good team.”
"We can walk into a 3,000 square-foot house full of stuff and within 10 minutes make a bid on it,” said Linda. “I don't always know how much something is worth, but I know what I can get for it. It comes with a lot of experience.”
Don said Linda's ability to price things quickly and his ability to move things quickly have made Slindy's a success.
Linda explained how the indoor flea market got its unusual name.
“When we were in Fredericksburg, I had a good friend named Sandy,” Linda said. “'Slindy' is a combination of our two names. Eventually I bought her out, but we didn't want to change the name because we had built up name recognition.“
A visitor asked Don about the most unusual request he has gotten.
“I was at a place the other day and they had sold several old caskets,” he said. “They wanted to know if I had any old caskets for sale. That's something I have never bought or sold.”
“We sell some pretty weird stuff here at times,” said Linda.
Don said he currently has two reels of film he doesn't know what to do with.
“They were shot at a German SS training camp near Salsburg, Austria,” he said. “ There's nothing Holocaust-related. They are of training and the mess hall during World War II. I asked the folks at the Library of Congress and they want me to donate them.”
Linda said Slindy's probably has well over 10,000 individual items.
“My favorite thing went out of the here on Wednesday,” she said. “It was a counter from the old Sullivan's store in Culpeper.”
Added Don, “I collect military coats and my favorite is a hooded parka used by a West German officer in the 1980s. It is a size XXL.”
Don said Slindy's has everything from baby cribs to 50-caliber ammunition storage cans.
What about the proverbial kitchen sink?
“We've had ones from time to time, but we don't have one right now,” Don said, laughing.
What he does have is about 10-miles worth of military strapping, a Swedish Army overcoat, a Russian child-sized gas mask and an Egyptian officers coat from the Mubarak era.
“I also have a Croatian police jacket,” he said. “It's right next to a Serbian shirt so I hope they don't fight each other.”
Don said United States military surplus is almost impossible to get anymore.
“A lot of it is being destroyed after it goes out of use,” he said. “Especially the metal ammo cans the Doomsday Preppers like. Some say it's because the government does not want people storing large quantities of ammunition. I was able to buy 800 wooden ammo cases at Ft. Bragg this past summer. As far as I know they're the only ones on the East Coast”
Don and Linda will go to unusual lengths to get items for Slindy's
“My brother Dean – he has since passed away – and I were in Zanesville, Ohio one time and we bought an entire yard of pottery. We had a 24-foot truck and it was winter so we packed everything with snow and drove back to Virginia. It was 10 degrees in Ohio and 40 degrees here. The snow melted and there was do damage or breakage to the pottery. We ended up making the trip three times, using snow to pack the clay pieces each time.
“It was a half acre yard of pottery. I bought it all for $750 and sold it here for more than two years. It was the best buy I ever got.”
As the visitor gets ready to leave, Don again mentions Linda.
“Without my wife, I couldn't do this,” he said. “We make a great team. She's strong where I'm weak.”