I have always loved Flea-Marketing. I blame my addiction on my mother, as all addictions usually are. For a majority of my childhood I grew up in Juneau, Alaska where there are no Flea Markets to be had, 1 Thrift Store and very few Garage Sales. So when my family would vacation further south in Arkansas and Mississippi and Florida to visit family and friends, my mother would go a little bit nuts at the Flea Markets. It was as if she had to make up for lost time, seeing and touching as many vintage goodies as she could, loading her suitcases full of vintage china, linens, silver and odds and ends. (This must be why I also associate a great vacation with getting to visit at lot of great Flea Markets. I like to plan my vacations around Famous Flea Markets the way others like to plan their vacations around great Outlet Malls or Theme Parks.)
Now as an adult living in the South, I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by a ton of great Indoor Flea Markets all within driving distance. Some no more than 15 minutes away, (and my favorites only 30 minutes – 1 hour away.) I have even had my own Flea Market Booths over the years as a seller or “dealer” as they called. Now, as an Interior Design Consultant I am often searching Flea Markets for great vintage finds for my clients as well as myself.
I thought that in this part, Part 1 of Come to the Flea Market with Me, I would show you some pictures of a few of my favorite Flea Market Booths here in Central Arkansas, and share some of my Flea-ing tips as both a personal buyer, a professional buyer and a seller. So are you ready to Flea? OK, let’s go!
1) Dress the Part. When you going Flea-ing – you want to be comfortable. Where clothes you don’t mind getting a little dirt on, are easy to bend down in, and are very, very temperature appropriate – a lot of Flea Markets – even some of the indoor ones- do not have Central Heating and Air so the temperatures can be extreme. Also make sure to wear comfortable shoes for walking and climbing narrow stairs or steps or even walking on dusty dirt floors.
2) Have Apron. Will Flea. If I remember in time, I always like to wear an apron with big deep pockets when I go Flea-ing. This apron (my favorite by designer Jeanetta Darely) is perfect because it has a couple of large divided pockets and they are perfect for holding my keys, cell phone, measuring table, money, etc. Much better than a bulky purse that knock precariously placed items over, and much cooler than a fanny pack.
3) Pack The Kit. Here are all the things you will need to have in your apron pockets or purse (or fanny pack) when you are out Flea-ing.
All types of payment. Most Indoor Flea Market Malls will take Credit & Debit Cards, but most prefer checks or cash because of the high fees that come with Credit Card machines. Also sometimes you will find things that you want for 50 cents and sometimes you will find something for $50 and so it is best to be prepared to pay in a variety of ways.
Measuring Tape, Notebook & Pen. If you are searching for furniture, lamps, or linens it is good to always have a measuring tape on hand to double check if something will fit your space. Also, if you will carry a notebook that already has the dimensions of your room or existing furniture pieces, windows etc. written down in it, you will save yourself a lot of second guessing and money by only buying things that will work in your home.
4) Get To Know the Owners. These pictures are from one of my favorite shops in Conway, Arkansas. This store is covered up with vintage and European linens, fabrics and notions. I love to go in to this store because I have gotten to know the store owner and I know that she can tell me the history of every piece in her store, where she bought and what it was originally used for. I know that when her shop is closed it means she is off to buy more treasures, and that I will find even more goodies when she re-opens. I can always count on her to have the perfect Euro Sham or Red and White ticking fabric, and do not waste my time looking for those items online or elsewhere.
5) Get to know the vibe. Every Flea Market has a vibe. Some are more junk than antique. Some are more antique than vintage. Some carry more vintage clothing than house wares; some are filled with books and garage sale leftovers. Most of them are a little bit of all of the above. Most Indoor Flea Markets are set up with a Booth System where individual “shop keepers” or “dealers” rent Booth Space for a set monthly price. Within their booth they can usually sell whatever they want, unless the Flea Market has a list of Do’s and Don’ts – which a lot of them do, but even then the styles and price range and age of the merchandise can fluctuate greatly.
This is one of my most favorite booths in all of my Flea Marketing travels. The owners of the Booth have really worked to cultivate a “look” within their space. Because their look is so distinctive (almost all Greens, Whites and Blacks) it has been easy to keep track of them as they have grown and moved from a small booth in the back of a Flea Market, to a larger space upfront by the window. Buy keeping their look simple and consistent they are memorable, and easy to distinguish from the other booths that are just chocked full of odds and ends. I can always count on them to have something that causes me to ohh and ahh, and often, to buy.
Another thing you can determine if you visit the same markets over and over are the Booths that like to run sales. There are always a few, within each Flea Market that run sales almost monthly, and you can usually find at least one or 2 “going out of business” or 50% Off Sales with each visit as well. Good turnover is the biggest boost to the Flea Market business, so shop keepers like to keep their goods moving, and there is no better way to do that than a good sale.
6) Don’t Be Afraid to Ask. As a Seller I was always happy to deal, because I wanted to move my goods. If you are looking at an item – especially a large item, do not be afraid to make a counter offer and to barter over the price. In most Booth style Flea Markets, this may require a series of phone calls to the booth owner (who is usually not at the Market) but everyone working is usually happy to help and assist – they all want the Flea Market to be successful and to make the customer happy, because they know that Flea Marketing is not like buying groceries or pumping gas - you do not have to come shop there, and because of that customer service tends to be better.
OK, so those are my tips for those of you who are new to the Flea Market Scene or who are looking to open a Flea Market Booth. Next time I come around, I am going to show you how I have used & transformed some great vintage items found in my local Flea Markets in a Lake Condo for some clients. The mix of old and new blended together, for a unique and comfortable vacation home.
Jerusalem Greer is a mom, a wife and a modern vintage gal just trying to live the artsy life. Full of love, laughter with a grateful heart, she enjoys creating beautiful spaces and goodies, which bring joy to all who encounter them.When she's not filling the role of "style and design editor" for Vintage Indie Mag, she is busy working in her studio at Storia Divita. Please visit her new website Jerusalem Greer.