This weekend I visited Brooklyn Flea, the best-known and likely the trendiest of the outer boroughs’ flea markets. During the spring and summer months Brooklyn Flea is an open-air bazaar, popping up in Fort Greene on Saturdays and Williamsburg on Sundays, but it moves indoors during the winter. At the time of the visit your correspondent was a tad sleep-deprived, and didn’t trust herself to be coherent enough to interview vendors. Did that keep her from buying a handcrafted wooden folding chair? It did not.
Brooklyn Flea was founded in April 2008 by Jonathan Butler, who operates the Brooklyn real estate website The Brownstoner, and Eric Demby, former communications director to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. The market has received a slew of accolades from publications like The New York Times, Time Out New York, and Travel + Leisure. Butler and Demby also operate Smorgasburg, a summer food market in Williamsburg and DUMBO.
The winter market, which features crafts and antiques from over 100 vendors, is worth visiting for the architecture alone. Housed in the former Williamsburg Savings Bank at One Hanson Place, literally a hop, skip and a jump from the Atlantic Ave Terminal, the market gets an elegant boost from the vaulted ceilings, brass fixtures, sand-colored marble walls and stained glass windows perfectly suited to the display of beautiful things. Food vendors occupy the former bank vault on the lower level, selling hip specialty foods like lobster rolls and, I don’t know, organic quinoa-kale smoothies or something.
No severed doll heads or Nazi paraphernalia here (I’ve seen both at Antiques Garage); Brooklyn Flea is carefully curated, and the effort is appreciated. The main floor is crammed with stalls selling a mixture of old or repurposed items and new crafts. Vendors sit or stand placidly by their offerings of vintage jewelry, prints and frames, handmade furniture and leather goods, mirrors bordered with antique tile, old-timey trinkets like skeleton keys and mason jars – what is it about older glasswork that seems so much sturdier and aesthetically appealing? – and an abundance of funky shoes and clothing, including plenty of those thick nubby sweaters that we all adore. The vendors spill over to an upstairs mezzanine, which also offers a nice bird’s eye view of the throng below.
Although a seasoned bargain hunter can no doubt dig up a good deal, Brooklyn Flea is a pretty upscale market, so thrift is not its primary virtue. Brooklyn Flea makes bazaar-browsing (“flea-ing”?) an easygoing, totally worthwhile event. I encourage you to make a day of it. Put on one of your nubby unicorn-pattern sweaters, bring some cash, grab a vegan carob brownie (or whatever) and enjoy.
Photo from marketsofnewyork.com