The San Jose Flea Market is still family owned and operated. Although there is now a staff of 500 service employees and controlled by Ogden Entertainment Services, the Bumb family oversees all management of the market. Brian Bumb Sr., son of George Bumb Sr., now supervises and is part owner (15.7%) of the San Jose Flea market among his other brothers, George Bumb Jr., and Timothy Bumb, who each have 14.1% ownership. Other members of the Bumb family own vendor stalls, work at food carts, and have managerial positions within the flea market. Joe Bumb, cousin of Brian Bumb, owns American Precious Metals, an open-air store within the flea market that now sells mostly jewelry. Joe Bumb store revenue totals approximately $100,000 a month. On any given Sunday, a visitor can find Joe and a handful of his children helping their father at the family store.
A Mariachi band performing at San Jose Flea Market
The eight miles (13 km) worth of aisles allows for over 2000 vendors to sell an array of goods. With a population and land mass larger than some small towns, the flea market is a major contributor to the income of many Silicon Valley families. Some of the treasures found at the landmark include jewelry, furniture, clothing, fruits, vegetables, shoes, collectables, toys, books, lamps, batteries, car stereo equipment, paintings, power drills, lamp shades, lipstick, and forks.
Along with the material items sold at the flea market, there are twenty five food vendors. Restaurants sell delicacies from burritos to French fries and freshly cooked meats on the outdoor barbecue in order to satisfy the tastes of the large clientele the Flea Market serves daily. There are also snack carts for shoppers on the run that offer delicious treats. Some of those include mango and pineapple spears on a stick, cold sodas, and churros. The largest section of the Flea Market is Produce Row which stretches a quarter of a mile through the market and contains vegetables and fruit from California farmers.
The atmosphere is like none other. To accompany the sweet and savory smells of the food, there is the sound of constant music playing. Since the Flea Market attracts people from a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities, the songs played from vendor stands reflect the Market varying tastes. So, it is no surprise that an authentic Mexican mariachi band will be playing as a Beach Boys song is heard a few minutes later. There are also a carrousel, arcade, and three playgrounds for children.
The diversity of people, food, and music at the San Jose Flea Market epitomizes the melting pot on which California Bay Area prides itself.
To keep his family tradition of education in the Roman Catholic Church, George Bumb Sr. established Saint Thomas More School on the flea market property in 1978 . His grandchildren were the first to attend the school, but when St. Thomas More was relocated in 2004 to 1590 South White Road in San Jose, CA, the attendance increased to include students outside the Bumb family. Although it no longer remains on the Flea Market grounds, Saint Thomas More School resided on the site for twenty six years; a majority of the Flea Market’s life.
Fraud and Theft
On Sunday, October 29, 1986, eight vendors at the San Jose Flea Market were arrested by undercover officers for selling counterfeit cassette tapes. The officers also confiscated 14,000 tapes from the stands. Sellers of these tapes were investigated after a 1984 study showed that the recording industry had lost over $300 million in fake tapes. Tapes at a record store sell for about $8 a tape; tapes at the flea market were being sold for two for $5 or three for $6.
In January 1990, five men were arrested for stealing 38 Ford pickup trucks from the parking lot of the San Jose Flea Market. The Fresno native men stole the cars to send them south to the San Joaquin Valley where they could be sold. The parking lot of the Flea Market is so big that security did not notice that nearly three cars were being stolen daily. But surveillance of the lot allowed authorities to catch the five suspects stealing the cars.
In December 1990, ten vendors were arrested for selling fake designer watches, athletic shoes, and clothing. 7,000 bogus items at an estimated worth of $150,000 were confiscated by a San Francisco investigator who was working with the San Jose police. In the beginning of this investigation, authorities bought 100 (Chanel, Fendi, Nike, Rolex, Adidas) counterfeit items from 42 vendors. On the day of the arrest, however, only 10 phony vendors were out due to the rain.
In May 1993, eight vendors were arrested for selling phony major league sports wear and $46,000 worth of clothing was confiscated. Imitation hats, t-shirts, and jackets were being sold and over $4,000 items were carried away.
In June 1992, Flea Market Inc. was fined $68,700 for alleged child labor at the San Jose Flea Market. Investigators of child labor laws in San Jose, claimed the Flea Market employed 71 children ages 1415 in a Flea Market restaurant for more than the federal standard time of 18 hours per week. The United States Department of Labor also regards this job as unsafe. Although the San Jose Flea Market did not appeal the facts of the case, they did dispute the fines received. The Flea Market claimed that since they are not involved in inter-state commerce, they abide by less limiting state laws and are not a part of the Federal Labor Department jurisdiction.
In the late 1970, problems began when George Bumb Sr.’s wife began having an affair with a man she met at a square dancing class. Felony charges faced George Bumb Sr. when he and an accomplice beat the man for 90 minutes. He offered him $100,000 to leave town. Bumb pleaded guilty to misdemeanors.
Throughout his career George Bumb Sr. included his eight children in the family business. He managed his businesses and family similarly with strict policies and fired his family members frequently. A more secretive family feud began when one of his sons, Brian Bumb Sr., did not send his children to the family school, St. Thomas More. Brian told his father the world was bigger than the Flea Market, and his children would explore it.
The Bumbs continue to have business and family difficulties. In the late 1990, George Bumb Sr.’s son Jeff spent $11.5 million to open up Bay 101, a card room in San Jose. But Jeff was unsuccessful in getting a gaming license from the state because of a loan that he never paid off. His two brothers, George Jr. and Tim Bumb, never planned to get involved but obtained the gaming license for Bay 101. Therefore Jeff originally did not receive any money from the Bay 101 profits. As a result, he asked his father for a bigger share of the Flea Market so all of the Bumb brothers’ profits would be equal. George Bumb Sr. refused and Jeff consequently sued his family. The case settled for $5.8 million in 1996. George Bumb Sr. died shortly after, never reconciling with his son Jeff.
On Tuesday, November 29, 2006, a fire burned down 24 stands of Produce Row at the San Jose Flea Market. At 6:02 p.m, a 911 call was made and dozens of fire crews and a helicopter arrived to put out the flames. Although the fire was contained at 7:15 p.m, $200,000 worth of merchandise was destroyed. Burnt nuts, fruit, plants, and plastic were strewn all over the ground. Teresa Bumb, daughter of Brian Bumb Sr., stated that they would do their best to help those who were affected by the fire by offering free or reduced rent.
On August 14, 2007, the San Jose City Council approved the proposal to reconstruct the 120-acre (0.49 km2) property on Berryessa Road to allow for a 2,800-home development. The Council took suggestions from the public and discussed it among themselves for about two hours that concluded in an approval of the motion by a 10 to 1 vote. The lone disapproving vote was cast because the Council member felt the requirements the city gave the Bumb family were excessive. The motion approved the Bumb Family plan to develop the 120-acre (0.49 km2) lot that is the current home of the San Jose Flea Market. The flea market will remain open until 2010, but in the meantime, a joint effort between the Bumb family and the city will take place to find a new venue to host the vendors. The approval of the project would have a few more benefits aside from an increase in housing. The Flea Market location is also a future BART, Bay Area Rapid Transit, station site. The upside to building 2,000+ low-income homes around that station would be a positive effect on San Jose commuters.
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