Ahead of this week's sale, we asked organizer Lisa Marie a few questions about how the flea markets came to be along this corridor of the East Village...
What originally inspired you to organize Avenue B Flea?
I organized and promoted events in the scene for years as a musician and also curated a few art shows. When I moved on from that, I still wanted to organize events and noticed how fast fashion was having a negative impact on the environment, so I started organizing large-scale clothing swaps. It was a way to keep clothing out of landfills and donate the leftovers to charity. My favorite place to have them was Lucky on B because of the great backyard patio.
When we couldn’t safely do my swaps there because of COVID-19, the owner, Abby, suggested a flea to increase some foot traffic to the struggling businesses. I took it from there. I called on the vast network of musicians and artists I know who wanted to share their creativity and needed money, so this became the perfect outlet.
Yes. I’d love that but now warm days are limited. I prefer to keep this an outdoor thing, so it looks like the last flea is Saturday, Nov. 14 — if it doesn’t rain. There might be a one off if we get a random warm day on a weekend in December too.
I plan on doing this again in the spring and I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback about it so stay tuned.
Several people have asked if they can sell stuff — residents with extra records and clothes. Can anyone show up or do they need to reserve a spot?
I love to accommodate locals, and I ask that they email me to reserve a spot. I plan at least a week in advance since there is a lot of planning and organizing in order for this to run smoothly and not be a free-for-all.
I’ve carefully vetted these spots to bring new life to the dead zones created by the closed businesses on Avenue B. It’s unfortunate that there is no city, state, or government support for these local mom-and- pop shops and they have no choice but to close.
I assign locations according to what I think will work best in the area and what type of space a seller needs. Not every table or rack can fit into any space, so it’s crucial that I know who’s selling what and where. I position everyone strategically to make sure entrances and sidewalks aren’t blocked and it’s not an inconvenience to the neighbors.
Ultimately, I hope the extra foot traffic is beneficial to the local businesses and increases revenue for the neighborhood!
What has been the most rewarding part of Avenue B Flea for you?
It’s great to see how resilient New Yorkers can be. We always bounce back and it‘s because we’re community strong. We’re tough no matter what the world throws at us, but for the last few decades, the East Village has lost it’s magic. It’s become sanitized and a lot of the creative types have left.
What I’m seeing now is musicians, artists, and creative types reclaiming the street as a platform. It feels very guerrilla and that was the essence of downtown back in the heyday. I’m trying to preserve some of that, and I designed the flyer to try and capture that old-school aesthetic.
This flea is an avenue to showcase new energy by offering items from artists and sellers you don’t see in the homogenized chain stores. People are also coming out to hear local music, reunite with old friends, and a lot of young people are discovering independent designers, collecting vinyl, and getting a taste of what the neighborhood used to be about.
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