Blue Blood And Thin Skin At Brooklyn Flea

Published December 5, 2013 by Larry Fisher

Brooklyn Flea knows how to make money for themselves and for a percentage of smart savvy dealers who understand the zeitgeist of people who have moved here and are living off their parents money. I get it.

Brooklyn Flea has turned a simple idea of people coming together to sell junk, into a franchise worth branding. I get it.

I have unfortunately been a blue collar worker all my life; which is like saying I have one foot in the grave. I get it. Believe me, I get it. So the idea of something so simple like a  community flea market being turned  into a franchise makes me nauseous.

Brooklyn Flea has every right to do whatever they want at their flea markets. They don’t want vendors to sell anywhere else, it is in the contract.  They will charge their vendors a fee on a rainy day. I get it. They are bottom line guys who have to make their money because it is the only thing that matters to them. I get it. I was raised in New York, I’ve been around. I worked for Corporate America for 9 years. 9 years at Time Inc. and I have never seen the kind of nonsense that Brooklyn Flea does.

Brooklyn Flea has many positive aspects to them. They created an open air market, that did not exist in Brooklyn at this level before. They know how to use media, and have curated many different food vendors for their events. I get it. They also are not a flea market in any traditional sense, and they don’t want to be. That’s fine I get it.

In fact, I was a vendor with Brooklyn Flea for years. I killed myself to try to make money. Sometimes I did, and sometimes I did not. I would say, that I always made a little money after expenses because I was “old school” and knew what people were  really coming to the flea market for;cheap, cool records, books ,clothes and jewelry. I  rarely made nothing. I wholesaled to the other dealers, all day long. I know what I’m doing. I’ve been doing this for 30 years.

I saw many disappointed vendors come and go because  the cost of the booth was too much. So it goes.

So why do I hate them so much?

Here’s why?

After my van broke down and I could no longer afford it, I left Brooklyn Flea and went back to a small affordable market in Park Slope at P.S. 321. Paul the Manager was there for 32 years. 32 years! He was the manager for the last  10 years.  Paul is great.He is the true New York character. There are aspects of his character  that might remind you of Kramer from  “Seinfeld,” that’s because one of the writers of Seinfeld was buddies with the crew at P.S. 321.

Paul is a talented cartoonist, and a mensch. If it looked like rain, he would call me and tell me that it might be a bad day,”If you make money, pay for the space, if it sucks, let it go.”

We are brothers now.

Paul respected his vendors. He knew what it meant to stand in the cold when it was 7 degrees. 7! I made money on the day that it was 7 degrees. I stood on cardboard and put warmers in my shoes… But Paul knew what it meant, because he was there too.  We stood side by side through all kinds of weather and together we were a community. We worked together. Nobody got rich and nobody took advantage of anybody else. It was a simple business plan.

When Brooklyn Flea outbid the vendors who were mostly all Brooklyn bred, they did not talk to Paul or come and introduce themselves to the vendors. They remained aloof. Perhaps, they were scared to actually deal with real life Brooklyn Gorillas. We are kind of scary men with dark backgrounds steeped in concrete New York legends, but we are also funny men, who like to slap each other on the back instead of knife each other in the back.

Brooklyn Flea had their own business  plan. Fine. It is their business now, they can lose money with the place however they  want. After a week of not getting their own vendors interested in the Park Slope location, they allowed former P.S. 321 vendors in for a discounted price. Fine. A couple of people went back and made a killing. They had no competition and understood their market. The craft people  from Brooklyn Flea cried into their 90 dollar bowls and did not sell any. Fine.

The Village Voice article came out, and Eric Demby said,” “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.”

I didn’t like that. I was offended by that. Had he said,”Hey, we have our own ideas and just want to start fresh.”

Well, I wouldn’t have liked him much, but I wouldn’t have turned him into my focus of hatred. . Yes, I hate those guys now. Hate is not really a strong enough word.

Most of the 40 vendors sold old stuff, some guys did clean outs (entire estates that they filled their trucks with and dumped on the playground).

Demby and Butler might not have liked that style, but it is very much a part of actual real  exciting flea market hunting. I get it. These guys are bottom line guys, who insist on having it all.

I call them M.U.C.K.STERS :Middle aged, Urban, Corporate, “Know it alls.” They are much worse than Yuppies, or hipsters, or Yupsters. They are all about branding and exploiting a trend. Fine, I get it. I get it and I hate it. I understand Yuppies and Hipsters much better than the Muckster. There is a reason why muckster rhymes with monster.

I don’t have to like Mucksters or Brooklyn Flea. I can try to fight it. The only way to fight guys like this is with their bottom line:Money.

My pockets are empty because of these guys. I would like to see them broke. I would like to see them not be able to  pay their bills. I would like to see them suffer with their wives and children. I would. I really would. My family is suffering this holiday season because of them

But How? How can I hurt their bottom line

Open up your own flea market people. Have garage sales and stoop sales right by their own markets. Maybe, they will treat their own vendors with a little more respect. Maybe they will cut vendors a break when the wind is howling at the open air market of theirs in Williamsburg.( That is, if there is an open air market in the State Park this spring. Apparently, there are other people who don’t like Brooklyn Flea and are trying real hard to close them down by the waterfront.)

Don’t worry about the vendors. There will be other markets for them to go to in the spring. And lets not forget all the vendors who weren’t able to make it at Brooklyn Flea. they need a new home to sell at.

Lets greet Brooklyn Flea in the spring with the biggest yard sale every single weekend. Bring out your crap and sell it cheap Let’s turn all of Brooklyn into a selling frenzy on the weekends…all spring, all summer, all fall. If it is good crap I will buy it.

So, get your crap together for a big yardsale, and promote the word muckster in your daily language. . I want it in the dictionary by next year. I really want that. I want muckster to fall off the lips of any dude who is trying to brand my hometown. Brooklyn cannot be branded.

Muckster  is such a good word, and so fitting an anagram. Go out there make it happen! Make muckster a word in the dictionary.

If you are a vendor with Brooklyn Flea, make your money now. Either they will get rid of you one day on a whim, or they will close and move onto something else more worthwhile in branding and franchising…

Imagine the insanity of actually succeeding in branding and franchising a flea market. You can’t make this stuff up…I mean you can, if you are a muckster.




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