DOVER — Dover has certain places that define its history and bring a certain character to what it is today.
The Green and Legislative Mall provide an interesting historical backdrop to the city, while Dover Air Force Base and Dover Downs have brought more modern themes to the forefront.
However, in between it all — and certainly standing the test of time — is Spence’s Bazaar, the old familiar red-painted auction and bazaar that has been conducting business at 550 S. New St. since May 3, 1933.
Spence’s Bazaar will be celebrating its 85th anniversary in two months and one of its owners, Blake Scott, said he would love to see the family-owned business reach 100.
That’s why he has been so confused lately when he hears rumors that the owners of Spence’s Bazaar are looking to sell the property.
Mr. Scott strongly denies that there is any kind of an effort taking place to sell the landmark business.
“We’re not sold and we’re not even for sale,” Mr. Scott said. “The rumor is going crazy. There have been rumors of (neighboring) Bayhealth being interested in our property and I guess some people are saying that Spencer’s (Gifts) at the (Dover) mall may be closing or something and they’re getting it confused with Spence’s Bazaar.
“People don’t think we’re telling them the truth. They think it’s been sold and we keep telling them that it hasn’t — especially our vendors. They think it’s gone and it’s not.”
Rather, Mr. Scott said people can still expect to come to Spence’s Bazaar for the auction and all the other staples the place is known to offer, from Amish goods to produce and clothing, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
That is a relief to Vixie Vetts, of Milton.
“I’d hate to see this place close,” said Ms. Vetts, who has been selling goods at Spence’s for nearly 40 years. “I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. I like to come out and just see the people.
“Spence’s Bazaar is a way of life for most people here.”
That Spence’s Bazaar “way of life” began as a livestock and horse auction after Harry and Emma Spence bought an old tomato cannery at Fleming’s Landing in New Castle in 1933 and moved it to its current location on New Street.
So far, the business has survived an arson fire in May 2000, the boom of internet shopping and an amazing five generations of family owners.
Over the years it has grown into its current incarnation where shoppers can find an auction, a flea market offering things such as furniture, electronic items and collectibles, as well as fresh produce and homemade Amish food.
Spence’s Bazaar continues to provide a small-town atmosphere right near the heart of the state capital. Most locals know it simply as “The Sale.”
The business even captured the imagination of Dover’s Parke Green Galleries co-owner and artist Norma Taylor Collins, who painted a picture of Spence’s Bazaar in 1994 that she titled, “The Sale Revisited.” It offers a look at the business before its 2000 fire. She has prints available for sale at her gallery at 331 S. State St.
Clyde Hastings, of Dover, was outside taking in the sights and sounds of the auction on Tuesday. Like many, he can’t imagine life without Spence’s.
“It wouldn’t be good if this place closed,” Mr. Hastings said. “It’s nice to have this. They auction things off and you just can’t find that sort of thing around much anymore.
“This place has good people, food, ice cream, produce and just about anything you could want — and it’s cheap, too.”
Despite Mr. Scott’s efforts to dispel those nasty rumors of a possible sale of “The Sale,” he said they continue to persist.
“Everybody keeps saying they saw it in the paper and I keep saying, ‘Well, cut it out and show us. Show me where it’s been sold,’” he said.
For now, he and his family are looking toward the future and another successful year.
“We’re going to have a little something for our 85th anniversary, we’re not sure what yet, but we’re planning on it,” Mr. Scott said. “Who knows? Maybe we’ll make it to 100 (years) and then we can have a big party.”