Brooklyn has become flea-ridden — and shoppers have got the itch.
Flea markets are booming around the borough, bringing vintage wares, homemade goods — and thousands of bargain-hunting shoppers — to schoolyards, courtyards and warehouses from Newtown Creek to the Narrows.
And the folks behind of the Bohemian bazaars claim that the secondhand souks — which range from Park Slope’s modest, 30-year-old flea in the PS 321 schoolyard to the Brooklyn Flea’s bustling DUMBO and Fort Greene locations — differ from the tired flea markets that set up elsewhere in the country.
“Flea markets in Brooklyn are catering to a different kind of community [that’s] always on a lookout for something unique that they can make their own,” said Ronen Gliner, one of the organizers of Williamsburg’s Artists and Fleas market. “There’s more of a creative spirit to the borough – people are either creating or recycling.”
One thing that Brooklynites are creating is more flea markets.
Last year, the much-touted Brooklyn Flea almost immediately exploded into an international phenomena after joining the borough’s already-crowded flea circus, which includes markets like the six-year-old Artists and Fleas, Bedford-Stuyvesant’s eight-year-old Lewis Avenue Flea Market, and Carroll Gardens’ three-year-old Brooklyn Independent Market.
In the year since the Brooklyn Flea’s inception, other newly launched markets have carved out their own niches like the Fact and Fancy Gallery in Boerum Hill and the Bedford Avenue Flea Market on the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Clinton Hill.
This season, the borough will welcome at least two new markets and a number of offshoots of other fleas.
In Greenwood Heights, the misnamed Park Slope Flea Market promises to bring vendors hawking tchotchkes and treasures to a parking lot behind an Islamic school beginning in May, while in Coney Island, the proposed Festival by the Sea is aiming to fill tents with antique and food sellers including the beloved Red Hook vendors every weekend this summer.
Earlier this month, Artists and Fleas unveiled a “Vintage Market” in a storefront adjacent to its North Sixth Street space. The Williamsburg bazaar will launch an outdoor satellite market in McCarren Park in Greenpoint on Saturdays starting on May 2.
Meanwhile, the acclaimed Brooklyn Flea — which boasts high-end vintage furniture sellers, antiques dealers, food venders, clothiers and artisans hawking handcrafted wares — will reopen its popular outdoor market in Fort Greene’s Bishop Loughlin HS yard starting this Saturday, while continuing to operate its indoor location on Front Street in DUMBO on Sundays.
Brooklyn Flea organizer Eric Demby acknowledged that Brooklyn has caught the flea bug — but he says his market’s success isn’t just due to recession-era penny-pinching.
“The Brooklyn Flea represents a real shift away form the mass-consumer chain-store mentality that retail in the New York City has gone so far towards — and that’s part of what people love about it,” he said.
Shoppers say they head to the fleas for the deals — but they also dig the markets’ casual vibes.
“I love the local scene here,” said Brooklyn Heights resident Liz Salvi as she perused the booths at Brooklyn Flea’s DUMBO location. “There are a lot of fun, quirky designers — and it’s convenient to have them under one roof.”
Many of the vendors say they’d much rather continue to sell at the flea markets than attempt to launch a retail shop — especially in this economy.
“I wouldn’t open a store if you paid me,” said Valorie Bowers, who sells rescued milk crates from the 1940s ($20) and trading cards from the early 1990s (three packs for $5) under the name “Kings County Salvage.”
“You get a couple of thousand people passing by each day — it’s all of the benefits of a store without the headache,” she said.
But that doesn’t mean that selling second-hand goods is all smiles and loveseats — in fact, some venders claim the mood can be Gothic.
Increasing competition from other flea markets has made it harder for some sellers to turn a profit — especially when flea fees can climb above $100 (plus the inevitable parking tickets that some vendors get while loading and unloading their wares).
Despite the challenges of selling, the borough’s collectors and artisans are only growing more interested in taking part, according to flea organizers.
In fact, more 4,000 sellers have applied to take part in the Brooklyn Flea — which drew 20,000 visitors in a single day last summer.
And the popularity of the markets — coupled with the diversity of the vendors — has helped put the Brooklyn flea market scene on the map, according to Jennifer Church-Beckett, who sells high-end secondhand clothes under the name Magic Vintage at Artists and Fleas.
“This is an international destination,” she said. “All of these people from all over the world are coming here and bringing their trends — from Ireland to Finland to Michagan.”
Brooklyn Flea at Bishop Loughlin HS (Lafayette Avenue between Clermont and Vanderbilt avenues in Fort Greene, www.brooklynflea.com). Saturdays, 10 am to 5 pm. Vintage furniture, antiques, clothing, collectibles, arts and crafts, and food.
Brooklyn Flea indoor market (76 and 81 Front St. at Washington Street in DUMBO, www.brooklynflea.com). Sundays, 11 am to 6 pm. Vintage furniture, antiques, clothing, collectibles, arts and crafts, and food.
Artists and Fleas (129 North Sixth St. between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street in Williamsburg, www.artistsandfleas.com). Weekends, noon to 8 pm. Emerging designers, local artisans. and collectors and a live DJ, vintage clothing, housewares, furniture.
Artists and Fleas “Market in McCarren,” McCarren Park (Bedford Avenue between North 12th and Lorimer streets in Greenpoint, www.artistsandfleas.com). Saturdays (starting May 2), 10 am to 6 pm. Clothing, jewelry, accessories, handmade crafts, art.
Brooklyn Indie Market (Smith and Union streets in Carroll Garden, www.brooklynindiemarket.com). Saturdays, 11 am to 7 pm; Sundays, 11 am to 6 pm (Saturdays only in June and July, closed in August). Designers, local artisans and food.
PS 321 Flea Market, PS 321 schoolyard (Seventh Avenue between First and Second streets in Park Slope, www.parkslopefleamarket.com). Weekends, 9 am to 5 pm. Oriental rugs, vintage clothing, furniture, jewelry, comic books, accessories, bric-a-brac.
Lewis Avenue Flea Market (Lewis Avenue between MacDonough and Decatur streets in Bedford-Stuyvesant). Saturdays (starting May 2), 9 am to 6 pm. Handmade goods and vintage jewelry, clothing, antiques and furniture.
Park Slope Flea Market, Al-Noor School parking lot (194 20th St. between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Greenwood Heights, www.parkslopeflea.com). Weekends (hopefully starting in May).
Festival by the Sea, former Astroland site (1000 Surf Ave. between West Eighth and West 12th streets in Coney Island). Weekends (starting in mid-May). Local artisans, and food sellers.