Flea-Bitten

Haggling in Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea

A gaggle of Pee-Wee Hermans enjoying the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market
photo: Kate Lacey
A gaggle of Pee-Wee Hermans enjoying the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market

Here is what we love so much about the Garage (112 West 25th Street), where, by the way, you don't have to pay to get in: Not only is the merchandise wildly eclectic, but because the place is damp and musty, it actually smells like England, the country with the best fleas in the world. On this particular Sunday, the lady who sells early-19th-century diamond jewelry is in her spot at the north end downstairs; if you don't have $800 to spend today, a few feet from her is a table laden with costume jewelry, all of it $1. And the great thing is: Both these booths are doing a bang-up business. For some reason the Russian couple who sell great vintage clothes by the south entrance aren't here this week, but there's another dealer around the corner with a cache of unworn vintage neckties (called "new old" in the business) that came from Sulka, a venerable if defunct Park Avenue haberdashery, for a ridiculously cheap $8 each. And Mel's Silver Alley is set up as usual, groaning with everything from calipers to coffee pots (so what if he doesn't have a 400-year-old spoon?) We glance over at Mel's, then stop at a booth to admire a turn-of-the-century souvenir jewelry box with a cover that bears a painting-on-glass of Torino. It's marked $75 but the dealer says he's having a slow day, he'll take $50. We offer him $40; he says $45. We hesitate, then walk away. He'll be here next week, and so will we.

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