February 28th was the City of Philadelphia’s flea market equivalent of “Shuffle Up and Deal!” as Phila Flea Markets, the biggest player in the local game, released its 2013 outdoor schedule. Vendors in the know have already picked their markets, written their checks, and mailed their applications. If you haven’t done so or would rather not commit ahead of time, there is another way to get spaces, which I have explained here before. This requires showing up the morning of the flea market and waiting for last-minute cancellations.
Personally, I prefer reserving because, as I’ve also explained here in the past, setup time at almost all of Phila Flea Markets’ events can be very chaotic and stressful. Why add to the stress by having to park your vehicle, run around looking for Tony (Tony Soprano is the proprietor of Phila Flea Markets), then wait for a space to become available? If you choose to go this route—and many vendors do—you will almost always get a space but I find it such a waste of valuable time and energy.
(By the way, these non-reserved vendors are easy to identify. They are normally in a frantic state from being illegally parked and, with car keys in hand, they appear out of the dark asking questions like “Have you seen Tony?” Or, a variation of that question; “Do you know which way Tony went?” These are the more clever of the species as they will run in the opposite direction in which you point, looking to head him off.)
Float Like a Flea Market Butterfly . . .
In boxing terms, I’ve always thought of Phila Flea Markets as a plodder, sort of like Rocky Marciano. They were easy to figure out but virtually unstoppable. All their flea markets used to be outdoors and always on Saturdays in May, June, September, and October. They had their core locations but were always looking for new ones along the way. If they came upon a location that looked promising, it would be added to the following year’s schedule, just once, as a test run. If it worked out, it then earned a permanent place on the next year’s schedule. Once in the spring and once in the fall.
Now, Phila Flea Markets is more Muhammad Ali than Marciano. They come at you from all different directions and with the fanciest of footwork. They’re less methodical and very unpredictable. This all started a few years ago when they began an indoor flea market during the winter months. They then became a bit bolder by scheduling a show in the quaint, middle-class town of Mullica Hill, New Jersey. That flea market flopped but the seeds of change had been planted. Last year, they went totally off the board and held monthly, Friday night flea markets that coincided with Olde City Philadelphia’s First Friday art gallery celebrations. These were very successful and Phila Flea Markets took off running with their new game plan.
This Year’s Changes
One change that I’m especially happy about this year is that Phila Flea Markets has now moved into the month of April. I have been clamoring for the exploitation of this month since I started this blog and finally the biggest organizer in town has done just that. The Philly outdoor flea market season is much too short to ignore this underused month. Forget about “April showers bring May flowers.” It’s an old adage/nursery rhyme that if there is still any truth to would only apply to England and Ireland which is where it originated.
Another notable change is that Phila Flea Markets has added three new locations for a total of four dates. Technically, there are five new locations for a total of eight dates. Passyunk in South Philly was held once last year as a test run. Manayunk was scheduled last year for a test run but had to be canceled. Both “yunks” are now on the regular schedule with two dates each. The three totally new locations are Broad & Callowhill for two consecutive dates, Sister Cities Park for one date, and indoors at The Kimmel Center for one date. Sister Cities and Kimmel are the most ambitious additions which is probably why they have just one date each. They’re test-runs.
One change worth mentioning but, in my opinion, doesn’t mean all that much is the fact that Phila Flea Markets has raised outdoor prices. Spaces are now sixty dollars instead of fifty. While I doubt any of us are thrilled about paying more for anything these days, if ten dollars has a significant impact on your bottom line, then you should not be selling at these flea markets in the first place.
There is one change, however, that I find extremely interesting. In fact, it’s so interesting, so telling, and quite honestly so disappointing, that it deserves special attention.
Old or Out on South!
The South Street Flea Market is no longer a regular market but is now an antiques and vintage-only show. That means if you wish to set up there you must now sell that type of merchandise, and you will pay $80.00 for the space. To me, this is huge news. South Street had always been one of my best markets and, in my opinion, one of the best seller’s markets in Philadelphia. Since I don’t sell antiques, needless to say, I’m disappointed. But that’s not all. To me, the most interesting thing about the move is not the move itself but what it seems to imply.
Phila Flea Markets has found a nice niche with the antiques and vintage-only shows and they’ve been very successful with them. Common sense would dictate that any business exploit this, especially now, when old stuff is very in. But to change a flea market that already always sells out seems to me to be a public declaration of an impending, complete, philosophical shift. (The old harbinger of things to come.) Therefore, I have to ask: are we quickly approaching a time when Phila Flea Markets becomes Phila Antiques and Vintage Markets? In other words, are they gradually positioning themselves to soon be 100% antiques-only?
Personally, I hope not but consider this: I mentioned earlier that Phila Flea Markets has added five new locations this year for a total of eight dates. Well, four of those five locations are antiques-only (six of the eight dates).
Only time will truly tell. But for now, to borrow another poker term, vendors like myself still have a few outs.
You can subscribe to this blog up top. It’s free and you can receive posts by email or RSS feed.