It’s December and holiday shopping is in full swing. Folks dig for deals on everything from the practical to the unforgettable gift. While some relish “the hunt,” others are happy to hunker down with a glass of wine, credit card and laptop to avoid store-hopping for days on end. Even so, the annual Holiday Flea at the Brooklyn Arts Center (516 N. 4th St.) does a pretty good job of getting people off the couch to shop local, upcycled, vintage, and more.
The Brooklyn Arts Center (BAC) will host its fifth Holiday Flea at BAC starting on Friday, Dec. 4, from 3 p.m. – 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 6, from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. This will mark the 10th flea since the series’ inception five years ago.
The Holiday Flea stands apart from the annual Spring Flea, in that it is exceptionally larger. Each year, it fills the historic church inside and out.
“It’s a very popular show because it’s one of the most unique holiday shopping experiences in the region,” BAC executive director Richard Leder says. “It benefits our community of vendors, and provides entertainment and Christmas gifts for our community. All of that money circulates in our town.”
Aside from keeping shopping local, Leder considers this to be the ultimate vintage shopping extravaganza. It welcomes more than 1,500 shoppers and about 50 of the top vintage vendors from Castle Hayne to Southport—all of whom construct mini-shops throughout the church and courtyard.
“I’m always amazed at how excited the vendors get, nobody creeps into this thing,” Leder says. “It is their chance to show off in a big way.”
It’s certainly not a typical flea market experience. There’s no winding dirt road. There’s no need to get up at 5 a.m. to “get to the good stuff.” Vendors take home 100 percent of their sales. Almost everything brought in is upcycled, antique or trending vintage. Moreover, the items are unique and range greatly in price. “Whether you’re buying a piece of furniture or a dishcloth, it varies greatly,” Leder says.
“I think it’s great, too, that they all know and try to help each other in promotion,” adds BAC event coordinator Jessica Pham.
Pham has been coordinating shops for weeks. Most are Wilmington based, many returning and new. This is Pham’s first time organizing the Holiday Flea, but she has been to past shows to continue cultivating the heart of the community event.
Among returning shops are flea veterans, including Michael Moore from his Castle Street antique shop. “He’s one of the first vendors who has always been with the show,” Pham says. “He always has the same spot. Pretty much everyone on the church floor are people who have done the show in the past. We have new people on the balcony and in the courtyard.”
Vintage Idiot is returning, as well as Siggy Parker’s General Store of “mind-blowing insanity.” “[They will have] every crazy, vintage piece imaginable,” Leder details. “Everything: concert posters, cowboy boots, lamps, album covers, clothing, you name it … the question with Siggy’s is what can’t you expect.”
Leder admits he buys at least one item from every flea, whether he set out to do so or not. “How can you not?” he says. “You’re surrounded by the coolest stuff for several days. Eventually, something calls your name and you find yourself buying it.”
Last spring Leder took home a Blenko pitcher from Vintage Idiot, which he discovered to be from a world-renowned blown glass company. “It turned out to be worth ten times of what I paid for,” he adds.
HM Books and Prints out of Charlotte is one newcomer to join the ranks of antique, retro and upcycled treasure troves. Wilmington’s So Sweet Chocolates will also roll in (literally) for the first time “They’re going to park their funky little trailer behind the food trucks on Saturday and Sunday,” Leder tells. “I think they’re a wonderful addition.”
The food truck schedule starts with Funky Fresh Food Truck on Friday. So Sweet Chocolates will join Catch the Food Truck on Saturday and Soulful Twist on Sunday.
From chocolate to pressed greeting cards, shops run the gamut—and not just in the antique trade. Soul and Sea Studio will have ocean-inspired home-decor pieces and paintings, while other artwork will be available from ILM’s Matthew J. Leavell. Shawn Swanson’s handmade wooden items like finely crafted pens, letter openers, wine-stoppers, and more will be there. Susan’s Garden will offer unique outdoor decor and planters, while 2 Chicks with Scents will have a plethora of hand poured, eco-friendly soy candles for purchase. Part of the fun for shoppers, aside from quality items from trusted dealers, is variety.
“We try to create balance so there aren’t too many of this or too many of that,” Leder adds. “There are so many jewelers, [for example,] who would love to be in this show and we can only take so many . . . which is why we’re doing a jewelry show in January.”
The Precious Metal Jewelry Show, scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 31 from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m., is a partnership between the Brooklyn Arts Center and local metalsmith Mitzy Jonkheer. It will be another curated event, but solely focused on handmade jewelry across the Southeast. In BAC style, it will be a full-scale community event, with food trucks, a coffee shop, and cash bar.
The cash bar is always open for BAC affairs, with Bloody Mary and Mimosa specialties planned for the Holiday Flea. Lativa Coffee will have a bar in the courtyard once again under a heated tent. Festive music will play as well, and there’s an ongoing raffle planned for every 30 minutes each day. While Leder never really knows what the raffle items will be, gift certificates are often given away among other surprises. “There are 40 or 50 raffle winners,” Leder says. “Every vendor donates an item, many more than one.”
The $5 admission to the flea includes a raffle ticket and is good for all weekend. Kids 12 and under get in free.
For more information about the Holiday Flea at BAC, contact Jessica Pham at firstname.lastname@example.org. For a more complete list of vendors, visit their Facebook event page.