Brooklyn Flea Wins Bid to Take Over at P.S. 321, But Not Everyone Is Celebrating

On a recent Saturday morning, the intersection of 20th Street and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn's South Slope was quiet and mostly serene, the silence broken only by the gorilla.

The creature ran out of a parking lot, past a rack of coats, a sequin-studded Liberace-esque jacket, and a pile of costume jewelry. It scampered up and down 20th, waving a sign that read "FLEA." It had on black sneakers and was, upon closer inspection, not a gorilla at all, but flea market vendor Larry Fisher in a gorilla suit, trying to get a little attention.

Earlier that week, presumably out of costume, Fisher had sent out an SOS email. "The old dinosaurs of Park Slope Flea are treading water," he wrote, "trying desperately to keep our head above the sewage."

For years, Fisher, 53, sold books, collectibles, vintage toys and records at a weekend flea market at Park Slope's P.S. 321, an elementary school on Seventh Avenue.

"The essence of the market was there for 32 years," says Paul. He's its former manager (and doesn't give his last name to reporters). "The gist was that it was an affordably based market for a wide range of vendors — not a streamlined, Bloombergian octopus of unaffordable crap."

That last bit is a dig at the P.S. 321 market's new owners, Brooklyn Flea, a hipster flea market empire that began in 2008 and now has locations in Fort Greene, Williamsburg, and Washington, D.C. (Its Philadelphia location recently closed.) Brooklyn Flea also has a food operation in Williamsburg (Smorgasburg), as well as food vendors and two bars at the South Street Seaport (Smorgasbar).

The Flea has won a pile of awards (including "Best Spot for Crafty Cruising" from the Village Voice in 2010) and been heaped with praise. But Paul, Fisher, and a band of other longtime vendors say the company forced them out of P.S. 321, usurping the contract and hiking the rental rate from $40 to $100 per space. The old vendors took their talents to a spot off the beaten path, behind the Al-Noor School in South Brooklyn. Paul is the manager again, only now he's working for no pay, trying help the vendors settle in.

These first few weekends, business has been slow. P.S. 321 is located along a well-trodden row of shops and restaurants, while Al-Noor's neighbors include a halal poultry slaughterhouse, an auto repair shop, and approximately zero foot traffic.

"This is how people made their living," protests April Summers. She and her husband, Frank, own Brooklyn Trading Company, which doesn't have a storefront: They've sold at the market and on eBay for the past five years. "At $100 a stall, plus the cost of buying your merchandise, that's really tough."

More broadly, the veteran vendors see the Flea as What's Wrong with Brooklyn Today: twee interlopers selling a manicured, carefully curated version of eccentricity to customers whom Paul, a cartoonist by trade, describes as "coddled Cassandras, yuppies in $300 distressed-leather jackets. Brooklyn is now a Stepford version of itself," he says.

Brooklyn Flea cofounder Eric Demby is a tad exasperated by the portrait of shabby treatment the old timers paint.

"It's our understanding that the previous operators of the P.S. 321 market either couldn't or didn't wish to continue running the location," he writes in an email. "I believe two of the three original operators passed away and the third is or was in poor health." (On this both parties agree: The former owners were a small group; one died recently, and another abruptly decided she didn't want to continue running the market, though the vendors say she didn't provide much explanation.)

Demby says "many parties" urged the Flea to respond to the New York City Department of Education's request for bids on the market contract, "especially . . . folks who wanted to see some change at a market that had remained relatively static despite a neighborhood that had evolved significantly around it."

According to the DOE, the Flea and three other groups bid on the market; the Flea's winning bid has not yet been made public, because the contract hasn't been finalized. They're allowed to run the market for 12 weekends without the contract, which, once approved, runs for two years. They'll be given two options to renew, each for an additional one-year term.

Demby says his people have worked with the school and the PTA "to ensure a smooth transition. We have minimized our food presence at the outset out of respect to local restaurants — a big concession for us."

Moreover, he adds, "It should be made clear that we have accepted the majority of 'old' vendors from the market who have applied to sell with us as operators. In fact, we've worked hard to accommodate a few of them who don't have access to a computer/email or don't know how to do that, even though our system of communication with 500-plus vendors relies heavily on it."

He does concede that a few of the former vendors weren't invited back: "A handful of applicants from the previous incarnation have been declined because they don't fit with our reputation for quality vintage/antique or handmade items — we've never allowed mass-produced or imported goods, for example."

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24 comments
bgross1065
bgross1065

Well the tradition of "that market" as you previously stated you loved no longer exists thanks to your brand!

This past Saturday 321 held its annual indoor sale which is totally independent of the flea market, Sunday December 8th the flea market had a grand total of 4 yes four vendors!

In years past the last few weekends leading up to Christmas and Hanukkah 10-15 vendors would be in attendance with un-curated items that the neighborhood and visitors looked forward to seeing and buying.

The bottom line is Parkslope does not want your brand, take the next Benzy or Mercedes and go back to your own branded universe.

Many of the previous regular vendors at the 321 Parkslope flea market are out of work this season due to your double talk about wanting them but yet not letting them sell due to your idealistic tunnel vision.

We all wish you and your Brooklyn Flea owner family's could walk a day in the shoes of those who's lives you have uprooted for your own egotistical greed.

bgross1065
bgross1065

This past weekend 321 had there own indoor yearly event so there was no flea market on saturday dec 7th, Sunday Brooklyn Flea had only 4 vendors total! at 321, In any weather on previous years there were 10-15 vendors there with interesting and un-curated items that people in the neighborhood as well as visitors enjoyed, now it's a has been totally gutted and by the very people ( Brooklyn Flea) who professed there was a large waiting list of vendors.

Thank you Brooklyn Flea for the great improvement to something that did not need your brand of fixing.

Hope you can live with the fact that many previous regular vendors at the Parkslope 321 flea market depended on this venue to make a living ( something your not interested in as you await the next place you mind can devise to plunder in your idea of improving with you brand of hoarse shit).

bgross1065
bgross1065

Today Saturday nov. 23, 2013 two vendors who previously sold at 321 were turned away when they tried to book a spot in person, though there were less than fifteen vendors selling. Quoted from above ( "Our interest in 321 has nothing to do with the bottom line or profit. We love the tradition of that market).

You the reader can see Brooklyn Flea is full of horse manure.

bgross1065
bgross1065

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/36/42/dtg_brooklynfleacomestoslope_2013_10_18_bk.htmlOpening weekend of the Brooklyn Flea in Park Slope boasted about 35 vendors selling artisan crafts, antiques, jewelry, records, and other vintage wares, and just one food vendor from Fonda, which is different from other Flea locations that typically boast big foodie selections.“We’re trying to maintain a low profile with the food out of respect to the neighborhood restaurants,” said Demby.

Fact is the first day there were less than twenty vendors.

bgross1065
bgross1065

Oh and how is it the Department of Education now allows non school related signs to be displayed during school days! Since Brooklyn Flea started in mid October there sign has disgraced the 321 Parkslope William Penn school.

bgross1065
bgross1065

Sunday November 17, 2013, the following is quoted from Brooklyn Flea's website , ( just one food vendor (Fonda Mexican Restaurant) well last week Fonda was nowhere to be seen but the doughnut sellers were there and today there were 3 yes three food venders BBQ , doughnuts and homefrite, so Brooklyn Flea you think you can do anything you want, guess now that your the new boys in town your going to do any dam thing you want. No laws apply to you.

larryfisher
larryfisher

I plan  on giving Brooklyn Flea a lot of bad press. People say bad press is just as good as good press. Great. Perhaps Brooklyn Flea will be so happy with my bad press, they will pay me to be their "Bad Press Guy"...

I guarantee that I will give them a ton of bad press as they continue to make a corporate mockery out of a simple thing like a community flea market.

http://garbology.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/brooklyn-flea-and-this-city-is-a-done-deal/

I also have a parody website of their "brownstoner" blahg called  "Headstoner." Headstoner is about real estate dudes who buy out cemeteries and make families remove the bones of the deceased in order to rent out holes for twenty years..."From The Top Of The Grave Looking down."

helenhelena206
helenhelena206

  •    <!--as Howard said I'm amazed that a mother can profit $9311 in 4 weeks on the internet. my site........................Max57.ℂom-->

helenhelena206
helenhelena206

 <!--as Howard said I'm amazed that a mother can profit $9311 in 4 weeks on the internet. my site........................Max57.ℂom-->

anonymous
anonymous

"Having run flea markets for six years now, this rumor mill among vendors is to be expected. It's unfortunate that folks feel this way, but it's just not true." 

Um, Mr. Demby that actually is  not true. It is to be expected because you treat people like…fleas.   The fine folks who own other much longer run businesses or even other markets ( older than yours) ie. Chelsea or Artist and Fleas, all have great reputations among vendors.   The constant dismissive quotes in this article by Mr. Demby are enough to make one's eyes roll way way to the back of their head. 

anonymous
anonymous

Read between the lines…you know who says dooshy things like this? ERIC DOOSH BAG DEMBY. This is classic Demby.  Moreover, he adds, "It should be made clear that we have accepted the majority of 'old' vendors from the market who have applied to sell with us as operators. In fact, we've worked hard to accommodate a few of them who don't have access to a computer/email or don't know how to do that, even though our system of communication with 500-plus vendors relies heavily on it."

anonymous
anonymous

Just reading what Eric Demby says, you can smell the dooshery on him. Such a doosh bag.  

The real issue is the previous flea market didn't sell OVER priced bs "vintage."  

Moreover, he adds, "It should be made clear that we have accepted the majority of 'old' vendors from the market who have applied to sell with us as operators. In fact, we've worked hard to accommodate a few of them who don't have access to a computer/email or don't know how to do that, even though our system of communication with 500-plus vendors relies heavily on it."

kevinizon
kevinizon

For all the people who are complaining about the upscale flea markets, the precious high-tag food trucks, the expensive sustainably-crafted everything?  

YOU'VE BEEN BLOOMBERG'D, BUDDY!! 


selflove
selflove

their business model and "vision" is unsustainable.  but then again so is capitalism.  have you seen the absurd number of "craft" t-shirt stalls at the ft. greene flea?  it's almost surreal.  

alert: brooklyn rapidly approaching self-parody.  head to the bronx!! 

six6sixwitch
six6sixwitch

"The reality is that some vendors fit with our vision for the location" - If your vision is food-fad trucks and block long lines for noodle burgers and $20 dollar donuts, SIGN ME UP, bro!

There's a reason ya'll couldn't hack it in Philly....

makismaquettes
makismaquettes

Another example of gentrification...However, as the economic situation continues to become more dire...more and more empty parking lots will be available for hoarders to sell the stuff that was made when the United States was Great!  I cannot decide if I am a pessimist or an optimist....My Franciscan mug (Starburst Pattern) is exactly half way filled wit Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice  coffee

makismaquettes
makismaquettes

"On a recent Saturday morning, the intersection of 20th Street and Fourth Avenue inBrooklyn's South Slope was quiet and mostly serene, the silence broken only by the gorilla."  Love the opening sentence.

WulfW
WulfW

Brilliant line! -- twee interlopers selling a manicured, carefully curated version of eccentricity --


bgross1065
bgross1065

Does Eric ever say the same thing twice, if you read all the comments on the subject of Brooklyn Flea's Parkslope takeover at DNA, F_ _ kedinparkslope, parkslopestope etc. you will find he can't agree with himself.Here is a quote from DNA-Eric • a month ago −Barry, we did not bid two years ago and have no intention of expanding beyond the current allowable area. Those rumors are completely false.zburch, the main reason we looked at this location is to accommodate the many quality new vendors who apply for the markets but can't sell because we're full. Expect mostly new vendors at 321, with some from the existing markets.Current/past 321 vendors are more than welcome to apply to stay on, and in fact we accepted one of them to work with us just yesterday. The price is $100/day at 321, less than our other locations, and we are open to anyone selling there now to continue on with us.We like the current market and vendors and plan to continue this neighborhood tradition respectfully.Ok did you read We are open to ANYONE selling there now to continue with us!One of the vendors that was turned down has more desirable items then some of his curated used item vendors and well displayed, not like some of the used curated crap dealers of his.I personally have emailed Eric asking for his help in getting past vendors in, he bluntly replied (Hi Barry. I appreciate your input, and we're doing our best to work with past vendors—many of them are back in the mix. We were strongly encouraged to inject new energy into this market, and the overwhelming response we hear is that folks are grateful to see us running the show over there. The reality is that some vendors fit with our vision for the location, but some don't. We have worked with tons of vendors who are not computer-savvy when they start out with us, but when we tell them the only way to sell with us is to figure that out, they make it happen. It turns out to be a good barometer of the level of professionalism we require to operate within our system, a sort of litmus test. Most of the past vendors have been able to figure it out frankly, and the ones that can't who we've met in person, well, I don't know that their merchandise is what we're looking for. )So he says one thing to your reporter and says a totally different thing in emails and on blogs.Will he tell you it's a misquote or a lie, maybe he just forgot what he means to say, we're just mincing words and he can give a rats ass about 321 or the neighborhood.One food vendor became three, there is a waiting list but the Fleamarket is empty, less than 20 vendors.

anonymous
anonymous

@bgross1065 They can't "accommodate" new vendors because they are too lazy to figure out how to ROTATE vendors. So it's the same schlock every week, and they think they invented the wheel.  

Demby is the sleaziest mofo around. 

 
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