Exactly one month ago, Riptide asked the kind of burning, investigative question that has won us so, so many Pulitzers: Are the bathrooms at the Opa-Locka Hialeah Flea Market the skankiest in all of Miami-Dade? Our burning need to know was fed by a reader's photos that looked so nasty we thanked the sweet baby Jebus that Smell-o-Rama computers never caught on.
Well, it turns out that Flea Market manager Scott Miller has actually sunk a good amount of time into cleaning up his establishment's bathrooms in the last couple years. So after reading our post, he extended Riptide a friendly invite: Come smell 'em for yourself! (And you thought alt-weekly blogging wasn't a glamor profession.)
On a recent weekday morning, we visited the flea market -- a sprawling warren of shops on the Gratigny Expressway selling farm animals, Colombian knock-off clothing, scavenged electronics, and pretty much any other off-kilter item you can imagine.
Miller -- a colorful, grandfatherly character who navigates the market's narrow passageways in a golf cart (and who earned a New Times profile for some of his "colorful" side deals a few years ago) -- meets us at the front office and starts zipping us around the market, weaving between Haitian fruit stands and Cuban guayabara shops.
Every vendor waves. A few rush up asking for favors.
Miller doesn't deny that his market's three bathrooms have had some colorful history. "We had one guy jump off the roof of that one and kill himself," he says, pointing. "We had a stillbirth last year in another stall. A homeless guy lived in that one for a year."
The photos were sent to Riptide by a reader named Joe Cuevas. Miller says he also heard from Cuevas about his bathrooms -- and actually had to address them with the mayor of Hialeah, who'd also received Cuevas' complaints.
Since then, the market has spent money to buy new equipment and tasked several workers with keeping the stalls clean every day, Miller says. Not that the new fixtures lasted long.
"They steal our fixtures as soon as we buy them," he says, pointing at a gaping hole in one wall. "They even stole a urinal there."
Despite Miller's renovations, Riptide has to say: The bathrooms don't look all that different from Cuevas' photos we posted last month. The graffiti is gone off one wall, but stalls are still missing doors, holes are still visible in the floor and countertops are still cracked and weathered.
But we will say this: At least on the morning we visited, the place was sparkling clean. Lemony, citrusy fresh, even.
Now Miller says he wants Cuevas to come back and try the bathrooms again. "We'd welcome him back tomorrow," he says.
As for us, we will happily admit that we were wrong. There surely are much grosser restrooms out there in the Magic City.
Do you know where? Email us here.
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