Changing the guard: Webb Road Flea Market manager steps down

Published 12:01 am Sunday, February 12, 2023

When the Webb Road Flea Market opened for customers and vendors on Saturday, a new face was leading the charge for the first time in nearly two decades.

With Lewis “Buddy” Johnson retiring from his helm, Rowan County resident and long-time flea market vendor Donnie Pressley took over the reins.

The 73-year-old Johnson has worked at the flea market since the mid-1980s.

“Everybody knows when it’s time to hang it up,” Johnson said, acknowledging that doesn’t make it any easier.

Johnson got the job from John Nash, who admired his ability to work on automobiles. He remains confident that the market will be in “good hands,” but he will miss the job’s fringe benefits.

“I met somebody different every week,” Johnson said.

Not every day brought joy, but each one did bring opportunity. When the flea market caught fire ten years ago, Johnson was determined to see it rebuilt better than before.

“There was a devastating fire that totally consumed the Webb Road Flea Market,” said Joey Popp, who manages communications for the market. “Buddy [Johnson] was there for the first moment of indication of fire, working with firefighters, the management team and trying to solve what happened that devastating day.

“The Webb Road Flea market was built back better than ever. Not just for customers and vendors but the whole region. So many vendors depend on that weekend. The public comes from across the Carolinas.”

According to Webb Road General Manager Chris Stephens, Johnson’s departure will be a big hole to fill.

“Management, staff, vendors and customers at Webb Road Flea Market have depended on Buddy [Johnson] to provide a sense of stability for dozens of years,” Stephens said. “Buddy [Johnson] will be a tough act to follow, but Donnie [Pressley] is on board and ready to jump in beginning this weekend.”

Pressley reportedly knows the flea market well. He and his wife, Wendy, have been vendors at the market since 2017.

“It was an opportunity not to have to travel for work and be close to home,” Pressley said. “We are at the flea market every weekend anyway, so we saw it as an opportunity to do something exciting.

“We developed some good friendships with the other vendors and some of the best relationships have been with customers we have met.”

Pressley’s resume is far from ordinary. After 17 years of service, Pressely retired from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department in 1999. He’s also managed merchandise for John Boy and Billy Radio Show, even making occasional appearances.

Long-time employees Trish Robertson and Jedediah “Porkchop” Goss will continue to provide support and a sense of continuity at the market, and Buddy will remain during the transition period.

With 130,000 square feet of covered/indoor shopping, 250 outdoor spaces and three restaurants, Webb Road Flea Market is one of the Carolinas’ largest one-stop shopping destinations. The market has been an integral part of Rowan County’s retail landscape for 33 years.

Open every weekend, rain or shine, Webb Road Flea Market is located off I85 Exit 70 at 905 Webb Road.