Tuesday, July 26, 2011


We're now into part two of our series on New York. The four parts of the series are in no particular order and may also break the mold of holding off until the next nearest Thursday to post. So let's start scratching those fleas.

On account of our unending search for beautiful things at affordable prices we try to hit every available market and marche both here and abroad. It's one of those things Rick and I and now Emmy have engaged in as a family- the group hunt. At the markets there's more freedom to include children in a shopping experience where the vendors are a little more tolerant of kids, things don't seem quit as precious at a flea market. Not that you can let your kids run unattended and amok wielding sticky candy and greasy hands around upholstered furniture but with a little common sense and invoking the rule of "hands-behind-the-back" kids are usually welcome in the outdoor aisles of most flea markets. When Emmy was small we encouraged her to find something she was interested in collecting so she could participate in the hunt. We wanted her to find ways of amusing herself while we looked under piles and sorted through tables filled with objects of both junk and desire. Emmy's desire has evolved into a collection of 110 and counting Breyer horses. She still works on the collection when there aren't any of her peers around but now her searches tend more toward the more refined and lady-like objects like costume jewelry and vintage clothing. We tend to keep our focus on things for the store and clients houses although I'm still a sucker for a beautiful globe or a piece of matte white pottery.
On a weekend in New York you can stretch your treasure hunting passion from early Saturday morning flashlight searching straight through Sunday night last minute bargaining as the sun sets and the vans are packing up the remains of the day. Here's my itinerary for a sweltering non-stop trek through the boroughs of New York and their many fleas.
Starting out early Saturday morning it was an F train ride to 23rd and 6th for the Antique Garage located between 24th and 25th Streets to the north and south and 6th and 7th Avenues to the east and west. Vertical plastic strips guard the entrances on both the 24th and 25th Street sides. Because the garage is lit you don't need your flashlight to navigate the aisles. True pickers are there as early as five in the morning catching vendors as they drive their vans or station wagons into the garage and begin the process of unloading and setting up their booths. Pickers know the better vendors and tend to hover over them as they unwrap treasures wrapped in newspapers of the past weeks events.
The history of the garage stretches way back before I moved to the city. The market used to cover two outdoor parking lots stretching along the east side of sixth avenue from 27th Street to 25th. It expanded into another outdoor lot on 25th Street and then into the garage when it transitioned from a fair-weather event to a full four-season venue. Then its realestate began to dwindle as the parking lots were given their building permits and the flea markets turned into luxury rentals. What remains today is the garage and the lot on 25th Street. The garage still remains a primary antique/vintage market but with each year the number of sellers seems to be getting smaller and smaller. I was still able to score this vintage fabric globe with its handsewn continents of white on white canvas. The Garage and the annex are open both Saturday and Sunday. Some of the Dealers in the Garage are there only one day so going back on Sunday even though you were there on Saturday can still bring new finds from some Sunday only exhibitors.
From 23rd and 6th it was off to Fort Greene in Brooklyn. The open playground behind Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School at 176 Lafayette Avenue transforms into an open air flea market every Saturday between April and November. The key here is not to get here too early. The market doesn't officially open until ten and even then you'll find vendors still unloading their treasures and casually setting up. This market has opened its doors and provided more acreage to craft and food vendors then some of the other markets. Here you'll find more fathers pushing strollers during their obligatory Saturday parenting shift than pickers looking for bargains. The benefit here is the competition for getting a deal isn't as intense as at other markets and the food is great. The back end of the market is one long line of Brooklyn bangers, wood oven pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches and gourmet donuts.
From a design point of view my most interesting find here was Lindsay Key, an interior designer hoping to attract local clients. According to Lindsay she signs up several consultations each week she's out there. This is a great idea for a young designer to get some visibility and start developing a client base. A flea market like the Fort Greene market attracts a wide range of consumers, many with deep enough pockets, an appreciation for design, and a willingness to contract a designer. You go get 'em Lindsay.
My best find here was this beautiful painted workbench. The vendor was asking $375 before I even started to haggle. The one suggestion I'd make for this market and any other outdoor market during the summer is bring a hat. It was in the nineties the day I went and the open playground did not provide any relief from the pounding sun.
Undaunted by the beating heat I got back on the subway and headed back into the city to Hell's Kitchen. The block of West 39th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues is blocked from traffic both Saturday and Sunday. I ignored the adage of, "If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen". Sweat dripping from every crevice I persevered and ended my day limping through HKFM (Hell's Kitchen Flea Market). If you're looking for relief from the heat or a smorgasbord of culinary kitchen treats, this isn't the flea for you. The emphasis here is on vintage clothing, mid-century smalls and industrial finds.
Sometimes it's not the purchasing that matters but the inspiration that you can acquire from what you find. I fell in love with this chair. I knew I couldn't get it back to Wisconsin but at $30 it was very tempting. When and if we launch a new collection to our furniture line I wouldn't be surprised if a version of this chair makes it into the collection.
Sunday started back at the Garage to see what new dealers had spread out their tables of new finds. Then it was back on the subway to Williamsburg and their Sunday version of the Brooklyn flea on the East River Waterfront. The Sunday version is located between North 6th and North 7th Streets just south of the East River State Park. Like its Fort Greene sister this market doesn't get started until well into the late morning.
Many of the vendors from Fort Greene move their wares and food here for the Sunday crowd so if you missed the blood orange donuts from Bedford Bakery Dough in Fort Greene you can get one here. Or if you're like me, you'll buy one at both fleas and not regret a single calorie.
One of the best finds here were Ryan Greer's gorgeous bike bags. You can also find at www.fluxproductions.etsy.com. The Williamsburg flea is worth the trip and they throw in a gorgeous view of the city for free.
I know it doesn't seem efficient to crisscross the East River two days in a row but logic has never ruled my treasure hunting. Back in Manhattan it was up to the upper Westside. Once again a schoolhouse playground has unlocked its gates and filled its basketball courts with vintage and craft vendors selling everything from beautiful beads to mini MP3 speakers to brightly painted furniture. Don't forget to go inside and roam the halls of I.S 44. Vendors line the halls inside as well. Know as the Green Flea this market has occupied the same space for over 25 years. Try to make this one even if it's the end of the day. With the Antique Garage shrinking like the Wicked Witch of the West the Green Market is now one of the largest markets around.


Los Angeles, 1964
Bruce Davidson/Magnum

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