I have always thought of Old Swedes as the flea market that has no idea just how good it could be. Its location at Columbus Boulevard and Washington Avenue is seemingly perfect with proximity to a large shopping district to its south and an I-95 entrance/exit to its north. As a result, there is an enormous amount of traffic passing this flea market’s venue with plenty of parking under I-95 for drivers to pull over and take a look. Another advantage is the flea market’s setting which is both historic and cool at the same time. Oh, and I should mention that their food “court” offers at least four homemade soups and outdoor and indoor seating. And, if that isn’t enough, Old Swedes has no need for rain dates. In the case of bad weather, they just move the whole flea market under I-95.
However, from a serious vendor point-of-view, there is something about this flea market that, in my opinion, precludes it from breaking through to the higher-echelon of city seller’s markets. I cannot claim to know exactly what it is but a few things do come to mind.
First of all, though there is an ample amount of automobile traffic, there is not a lot of walking traffic in Old Swedes’ neighborhood. It’s location is more main road than city street so not many pedestrians are going to stumble upon the flea market on their way to somewhere else.
Also, I don’t believe they really advertise effectively. Before I had this blog, I never really knew when Old Swedes was having a their flea markets. I even know vendors who have sold there often and sometimes would miss one of their dates from not having gotten the word.
Finally, they always seem to schedule their markets the same days as other, more well-established, and better-run flea markets and events in the area. Honestly, I never understood this. If you only run two flea markets a year, that gives you a certain amount of flexibility. Why not use that to your advantage instead of constantly going toe-to-toe with the bigger boys? Not only does Old Swedes lose potential vendors by doing this, but shoppers as well who often opt for the better known places to spend their money.
As a result, Old Swedes attracts many of the South Philadelphia quasi-professionals who tend to sell mixed-bag merchandise fairly inexpensively. (I’ve written about these vendors before but called them semi-professionals. I believe quasi is more accurate.) Don’t get me wrong, Old Swedes does attract a fair amount of professional and semi-professional vendors but normally they are there because they could not secure a space at a Center City market. Basically, they use Old Swedes as a plan B. And, for the most part, they have to sell their merchandise at discounted prices.
The upside to all this is that Old Swedes has become a pretty good buyer’s market. Besides the vendors selling things at fairly low prices, the church itself sells tons of donated items for practically nothing. And, more often than not, you will find old stuff.
I don’t believe Gloria Dei Old Swedes Church Flea Market reserves spaces ahead of time. Every time I’ve sold there, I just picked an empty spot upon arriving, parked, unloaded and paid later when the organizers would come around to collect. If you are vending there for the first time, the earlier you get there the more choices you will have, and the better chance of getting a parking space in front of your spot. I normally used to setup on Christian Street (for some reason, the last street to fill up) and if I didn’t get a parking space near my spot on the street, I parked in the church’s parking lot on the other side of the fence.
I hope this post is helpful. Questions, comments, and suggestions are most welcome.