TAMPA – It’s the end of an era for the Fun-Lan Drive-in Theater and Swap Shop in Tampa.

Principal Candy Snell spent Friday packing up the latest gear and collecting her last check after working there for five years. She said she learned last week that the property was going to be sold and that the flea market vendors were due to empty by the end of the week.

The iconic drive-in marquee read: “We will miss you.

Jerry Corgnati said he was the acting manager of Florida Swap Shop, the company that runs the drive-in and flea market. He said on Friday that the sale had not been finalized and that he did not know who was buying the property. Site owner Betty Henn was not immediately available as she is on vacation, he said.

Fun-Lan opened in January 1950 and could accommodate more than 650 cars, according to an ad published in the Tampa Tribune. Admission was 48 cents. In the 1980s, the theater added a daytime flea market to stay afloat, according to newspaper records.

Maintenance Supervisor Jose Ortiz, 63, poses at the Fun-Lan Drive-in Theater and Swap Shop in Tampa Thursday. Ortiz said he planned to work at a Lakeland flea market, although he lives in that neighborhood and was able to walk to work.

[ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Many drive-ins have closed over the decades. There were more than 2,000 drive-ins across the country in 1987, according to data from the National Association of Theater Owners. In 2020, they were less than 550.

At one point, the Tampa Tribune reported, Tampa had over 25 drive-ins. In 1994, Fun-Lan was the last opened and has remained so until now. The outdoor screen had its last showing in August, Snell said.

“We have been discussing the closing of the theater section for a few years. It wasn’t making money, “Snell said, adding,” iPads and stuff like that killed the cinema because now it’s too easy to watch movies on your phone. “

Empty product stalls, a projection tower on the left, and a drive-in cinema screen on the right mark the site of the Fun-Lan Drive-in Theater and Swap Shop in Tampa on Thursday.
Empty product stalls, a projection tower on the left, and a drive-in cinema screen on the right mark the site of the Fun-Lan Drive-in Theater and Swap Shop in Tampa on Thursday.

[ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

The 2302 E Hillsborough Ave. was purchased in 2001 by Preston Henn, according to county property records. Henn owned the Fort Lauderdale-based Swap Shop until his death in 2017. The business is now owned by his wife, Betty Henn, and has two locations in South Florida, in addition to one in Tampa.

The Tampa property has been for sale for several years after Preston Henn passed away, Corgnati said.

Daniel Angulo, a flea market vendor, said he was shocked to learn he was due to leave in a few days. He said he spent most of Thursday packing parts for the business he owns with his brother, Carolina Seafood Inc., and loading them into a pickup truck.

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“It was about 25 years of work there, just hauled off the property,” Angulo said.

Daniel Angulo, 37, poses with the items that covered the produce and seafood he and his brother sold at the Fun-Lan Swap Shop flea market in Tampa on Thursday.  Angula said the siblings have been permanent sellers for the past 27 years and received a phone call about 10 days ago saying the property had been sold and they needed to remove their assets.
Daniel Angulo, 37, poses with the items that covered the produce and seafood he and his brother sold at the Fun-Lan Swap Shop flea market in Tampa on Thursday. Angula said the siblings have been permanent sellers for the past 27 years and received a phone call about 10 days ago saying the property had been sold and they needed to remove their assets. “No questions asked, no explanations,” Angula said. “It was our job. It was our income. They kicked us out… A lot of our clients knew we were on vacation and would be back in January, but now I had to call everyone and say “We won’t be back”. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

The business was supposed to take a short hiatus until January, Angulo said, and now he has to tell customers he doesn’t know when he will resume operations.

Angulo said he will miss seeing people who have traveled from places like Orlando and Fort Myers to come to the Tampa flea market.

“It was such an iconic place. People from other counties were actually visiting, ”Angulo said. “You can find almost anything you want.”

Working at Fun-Lan wasn’t just a job for Snell, it was like family.

“A lot of these salespeople have been through weddings, divorces, babies, and graduations. We’ve been through a lot together. Snell said. “During the pandemic, we stayed in touch and talked on the phone. “

Snell said she didn’t know what to do next. She may work at another flea market in Plant City or Lakeland. She’s moved by Fun-Lan’s shutdown, she said, but she’s hopeful for her next chapter.

“They say find something you love to do and then call it a job. And that’s what I did, ”Snell said. “I really enjoyed being here at the flea market and being with my flea market family.”

Photographer Ivy Ceballo contributed to this report.