When Ben Coffey decided he was ready for a career change, he turned to a lifelong hobby – buying and selling vintage and antique items.


Coffey’s new business, The Ark Antiques and Flea Market, will officially open on July 1 at 301 S. Main St.


The building that formerly housed Simply Good Overstocks will now lend 4,000 square feet for Coffey and more than 30 other vendors to display their treasures for sale.


In his high school years, Coffey had amassed enough unique finds to stock a booth of his own at flea markets.


"I love going to auctions. I’ve always been the youngest one there," Coffey said.


While he may not have had the memories of and nostalgia for the items that were made before he was born that seasoned auction veterans possessed, Coffey made up for it picking their brains.


"Half the fun is just listening to their stories," Coffey said.


It was not just historical provenance that fascinated Coffey – he was also eager to know how to present the things he found in ways that would appeal to just the right customer.


"When I was in elementary school, I’d set up a lemonade stand or trade my ninja turtles," Coffey said. "The first thing I bought off of the internet was the book, ‘How To Have A Successful Garage Sale.’"


From garage sales, Coffey graduated to estate sales and finally garnered enough respect from his picking peers to be invited to private home sales from Nebraska to Oklahoma.


Ready to take the next leap, Coffey is not overly concerned about the risks of opening a business during a pandemic that could not only affect him, but also his vendors and customers.


"We’re definitely hedging our bets on optimism," Coffey said.


The Ark Antiques and Flea Market’s appeal will be its diversity – from tools to antiques to household goods and handcrafted products.


"Each booth is different from the rest," Coffey said. "It’s very dense. It’ll take you a while to get through and see everything. You could even go through twice and see totally different stuff."


While he admits he is not an expert on every type of antique, Coffey draws on his own experience, knowledge of the market, auctioneer network and researching skills to cull the best items for his new venture.


"It’s not junk that we’re getting. This is turn off the century to mid-century stuff," Coffey said. "Vintage, distressed furniture, rustic – that’s what’s in right now. We’ve got crafters, pickers, candle makers – a little bit of everything."


Having multiple vendors gives The Ark Antiques and Flea Market not only a wide variety of inventory to present to the public, but it will also constantly be refreshed with one-of-a-kind finds.


"People enjoy the hunt," Coffey said.


The Ark Antiques and Flea Market will also be a hub for people looking for somewhere to sell their antiques.


"They get money on the spot and we get our items," Coffey said.


Vendors appreciate having a central location for people to look over their offerings – and having someone else take care of staffing and running a store, according to Coffey.


"We take care of the sales and sales tax. They set up the display and we take care of the rest," Coffey said.


Antique stores used to attract more mature shoppers, but Coffey noted they now draw younger customers looking for quality or quirky things with which to decorate their living spaces.


"We’ve got a little bit of everything – maybe not quite two of everything, but that’s why we called it The Ark," Coffey explained.


The Ark Antiques and Flea Market will be open from 10am to 6pm Tuesday through Friday and from 1 to 6pm Saturday and Sunday, even on the July 4th holiday.


For more information about The Ark Antiques and Flea Market, visit its Facebook page or call 620-718-2036.