Whether you’re a collector trying to complete that doggone box set or someone who’s really into knick-knacks, flea markets can be an undeniably appealing treasure trove of discoveries, full of nostalgia and miraculous, affordable finds of items both old and new. Sometimes, shrewd shoppers are lucky enough to find true gems—antiques and well-cared-for vintage furniture, stylish accessories from the recent past—each item rare in its own right. But what about those looking for such wares exclusively? Where does one go to find a picture frame made of refurbished wood from a local barn? For the discerning Philly bargain fiend, the Franklin Flea has long been marching to the beat of its own carefully-perserved drum.
Boasting an enviable collection of vintage clothing, furniture, and jewelry, collectibles, antiques and a vast array of baked goods, this refreshing take on an old idea is slowly but surely becoming a local favorite. After the success of its previous location in the old Strawbridge’s building at 8th & Market, this massive shop-o-rama—the brainchild of Mark Vevle—is revolutionizing the way Philadelphians do flea markets. Their new take on pop-up retail is a monthly event, featuring anywhere from 40 to 60 vendors selling the cream of the secondhand crop.
This Saturday, marks the open-air debut for the Franklin Flea, taking full advantage of the summer weather and enabling this curated collection the opportunity to attract even more curious shoppers. PW had a chat recent with Vevle, who briefly discussed the attraction of his passion.
PW: To the best of your knowledge, where did the term “flea market” come from?
MARK VEVLE: The origin of the term is debated, but my guess is that we borrowed it from the French, whose famed markets got the moniker “marché aux puces” from the upholstered furniture sold at the markets that were sometimes flea-infested. Happy to report we’re flea free!
When was the first time you realized these markets held an interest for you?
I got my first taste of flea markets when I was a little boy growing up in Minnesota. Our summers were spent at a lake cabin and making a stop at the rural markets, and garage sales—as we call them in the Midwest—was a popular sport for my family. It’s a great way to furnish a cabin!
What are some of the do’s and don’ts of flea marketing?
Do get into the booth and have a good look around. A lot of the vendors do a good job filling their booth and putting up impressive displays, but that sometimes means you need to dig a little to have that happy accident of finding something you love and didn’t know you needed. Don’t hold a gab session with your long-lost friend in the booth blocking others from shopping. Do feel free to make an offer of a lower price—but don’t be insulting. Do indulge your impulse to buy that crazy-looking thing. Don’t walk away thinking it’ll be there later in the day.
What are some of the more memorable items—good or bad, cool or gross—you’ve come across at flea markets?
One of my vintage clothing vendors had a pretty amazing chastity belt for sale. We’ve had a few cool motorcycles make it to the market floor. We often see guys take a liking to anatomy posters, thinking they’re cool—which they are! But their girlfriend or wife sometimes puts their foot down because they think they’re gross.
Who are some of the vendors discerning planners can expect to see at Franklin Flea?
The market focuses on vintage, antiques and collectibles, and the following are some vendors that represent this range well: Hoof & Antler, Vintage Cid and Stuff2DAY. Clothing and jewelry features great finds like Coast to Coast Mobile Vintage in a special appearance, Greatest Friend, and The Captain’s Vintage. Occasionally, we offer up exceptional new/handmade vendors, some good examples of which are Enliven, which sells beautiful planters for your front stoop or back yard; Cuttalossa and Olliver soy candles. Our food program really speaks to summer, with some new and old favorites: Luke’s Lobster, for example. To me, lobster, crab and shrimp rolls always say summer. Hocks N Coqs, which is new to the market, selling jars of pickled peppers, tomato jam (my fave), and their own cooked chicken and pork sausages to eat while you shop. Milk + Sugar were a hit at our holiday market, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have them back. And Peddler Coffee is making their debut at the market, slinging cold brew coffee beverages.
What’s in the future for the Franklin Flea?
This year is a building year for the market, we’re still pretty young. This September, we’re excited to be partnering with PHS for a big market at the Navy Yard. We’ll keep trying out various venues, frequency, and flourishes like music until we find a rhythm and location that feels like the sweet spot.
Sat, July 19th, 10am. Gen. George A. McCall School, 325 S. Seventh St. franklinflea.com
Calendar: March 25-April 1
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide