The Permanent Pop-Up
The Market NYC is a unique addition to New York’s booming flea market scene. Its façade promises a trendy West Village boutique, but past the front doors it operates like an upscale bazaar, with roughly 30 local designers and artisans setting up shop to sell their new, vintage and refurbished designs directly to customers. The semi-finished space, with an enclosed lower level and an upstairs mezzanine, stocks whimsical niche items such as Mad Men-inspired dresses, lamps mounted on wooden wine crates, antique jewelry and octagonal Rubix cubes in an assortment of colors. The boutique also hosts a weekend market on the lower level, with twice as many vendors and negotiable pricing. Alex Pabon, the market’s co-founder along with designer Nicolas Petrou, is a jewelry-maker and a veteran of flea markets like GreenFlea and Antiques Garage. Pabon has a gestural manner of speaking and an effortless fashion sense, wearing a black vest, black trousers and a black long-sleeved shirt under a white tee. On February 7th The Market NYC hosted a “Pre-Valentine’s Party” with music and free food and drink, and rumor has it The New Yorker was in attendance. The Market NYC has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings in a gymnasium on Mulberry Street; here, Pabon talks more about this one of a kind boutique.
How did the concept of The Market NYC come about?
We started in September of 2002. Myself and Nicolas were on the other side of the fence, we were vendors. He was making vintage wrap skirts, I was making some jewelry, and we sold in several different venues. We did pretty good money, but there was always something lacking. We came up with an idea of bringing New York-based designers under one roof. We saw that there was a calling at Henri Bendel for emerging designers, and we’re like, “Let’s go over there and give cards out.” That’s how we got the first 10 to 12 designers. Then word of mouth. After several months, when we were on Mulberry Street, it really took off. People were like, “Oh my God, where has this been?” 2002 doesn’t seem like too long ago, but it didn’t really exist, anything in the city where local artists could come under one roof and sell directly to the public.
So, vendors rent space in the boutique on a monthly basis?
Yes, it’s a month-to-month agreement, minimum two months. If they need to vacate we ask that they give 30 days’ notice. That’s it, very straightforward. We don’t take any commission from their sales. We’re not becoming rich doing this, but we love doing it. We really believe in it. We’ve met a handful of great people and it was really great to see them move on. For example, Rebecca Taylor, the designer, started at Mulberry. We’ve had two vendors on Project Runway. So it led to other avenues for exposure. That’s the idea, to set that platform for them.
This seems like a pretty unique concept. It’s a permanent boutique, but inside it’s like a flea market or a bazaar.
It’s a little bit more upscale, the next step up from a flea market. But it’s all affiliated: the setup style, customers knowing they can find great deals. This is a great space for that, because usually we would work out of a gymnasium or the basement of a church.
What attracted you to this “pop-up” boutique style, as opposed to a regular retail store where the designers aren’t present?
The idea that the vendor can interact directly with the customer was the whole concept. You can walk in here and actually meet the designer and talk with them, hear their story, what inspired them, that sort of thing.
Do many of the designers here prefer this way of doing business?
Yes, because it’s cost-effective for them. This is a way for them to have a shop within a shop without that very high cost [of running their own boutique]. Here everything is included. Some of them have gotten backers, someone they met at the market.
So people have moved out and opened their own boutiques afterwards.
Either their own boutiques, or two or three of them got together and opened their own little shop. That’s the whole idea – it’s growth. This is a good way to get your feet wet, and grow with us as well. We have a handful of vendors that have been with us since day one, so obviously they enjoy this type of environment, this type of business, and it works for them. It’s great to see them evolve.
Are there any particular items that sell very well?
Jewelry sells really well, that’s why you see so much of it. We’re always trying to find other types of merchandise: more clothing, children’s wear, menswear, vintage. We love vintage, whether it’s clothing, watches, eyewear. We have this great guy who comes in on the weekends who sells books. We love that. It looks really great in the space.
Could you tell me a little bit about the pre-Valentine’s Day event that’s happening tonight?
We decided to do it a week prior, just to get people in that mode. We’re offering complementary wine, some great prizes, gift certificates, sweets, snacks, lovers’ music. This is a way for people to network, and for people who maybe haven’t been to the space to discover it. It’s something we try to do every other month. If we can have an alcohol sponsor, even better.
Does the store have a particular philosophy or a motto?
Just to be successful going forward. That’s all we ask is that people sell, they make money. Everyone’s happy, we’ll be happy.