When I take a short holiday away from work and I only have a few days in a fabulous city, there’s no better brain cleanse, for me, than a market. It doesn’t take long in a stimulating sea of sound, smell and colour and I’m soon cruising the aisles in holiday mode. So, just before a recent trip to NYC, I sussed out the market situation and boy, did I hit a winner. The Brooklyn Flea’s, Fort Greene market, was a short cab drive over the East River from where I was staying in Tribeca. Fort Greene is the flagship event of a number of Brooklyn markets. Every Saturday from April through to November about 150 vendors gather on the 40,000-square-foot schoolyard at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School. The website, www.brooklynflea.com, describes Fort Greene as "part vintage bazaar, part hipster hang, part old-fashioned town square, and part food bonanza.” Oh yeah, Fort Greene is all that and more.
In the vintage department, there was vinyl. I’m not just talking old records. This was wearable, displayable vinyl. It’s the clever creation of Patrick “Monkey” Chirico and Brian Farrell. Wrecords By Monkey takes record maker rejects and gives them a new spin, turning them into cuff bracelets, arm bands, earrings, pendants, belt buckles, books, iPhone cases and clocks. The guys soften the vinyl on a hotplate and silk-screen images onto the pieces. The vendor at the booth told me sidewalk sales took a big boost years ago after Nora Jones bought a cuff and was photographed wearing it on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. http://www.wrecordsbymonkey.com
Wrecords By Money was just the beginning of the quirky finds at Fort Greene. Next stop, near the middle of the market, there were tables and tupper ware containers filled with ridiculously random collections. Green army men, action figures, high-bouncer balls, license plates and metal signs were just some of the items up for sale at Dan’s Parents’ House. I laughed out loud when I came across a bin of miniature plastic prosthetics labelled “tiny hands and feet”. A fellow named Justin was handling customers. He told me there’s new stuff every week and they mostly buy in bulk from estate sales, auctions and people looking to unload personal collections. Dan’s Parents’ House draws a crowd. “I don’t want to talk us up too much, but we’re in the middle for a reason. It’d be a bit sleepy without us,” boasted Justin. Here's the website: http://www.dansparentshouse.com
Travis Sylvester’s section of the market draws a steady stream of traffic too. The bold patterns on his racks of men’s vintage shirts are hard to ignore. But it’s Sylvester’s hand-made bow ties that really catch eyes. Brooklyn born with parents who immigrated from Jamaica, Sylvester is a self taught tie maker who calls his business Kingston Twenty-One. He told me it all started back in 2011 when he wanted a wool herringbone tie. He couldn’t find one so he turned his hand to sewing. “They weren’t so pretty in the beginning,” admitted Sylvester. Now, he can't keep up with the demand for his bright and funky neck decorators. Regular customers come back every week to check out the new vintage fabrics, silks, wools and linens Sylvester has been able to source for his ties. “There’s always that guy in everybody’s office who wears a bow tie. Some offices have bow tie Fridays. Me, I wear bow ties with shorts. You don’t always have to have a suit,” said Sylvester. Fort Greene market is where he attracts a lot of new customers but Sylvester’s online sales have taken off too. Check out his website at http://www.kingstontwentyone.com
Fort Greene offers a kind of trip back in time with vendors selling typical vintage items like old furniture, carpets, jewellery and prom dresses. You can pick up special souvenirs like little leather bound library books published from 1915-1923 that were mailed to and carried by WWI soldiers. Or, how about a date stamped railway nail from the year a piece of track was installed.
I took dozens of digital pictures at the market, all with my Samsung Galaxy phone. When I found Brooklyn’s Refurbished Vintage Cameras and Film booth, though, I longed for an old-time celluloid moment. Michelle Casper walked me through some of the more coveted cameras like the 1953 Yashica-A twin lens and the 1972 original polaroid. Casper told me there is a huge vintage camera community in Brooklyn and polaroid booths at weddings and graduations are the latest hot trend in Brooklyn.
If you get hungry, even the food at Fort Greene will bring you back to a simpler time. I recommend a porchetta sandwich, a traditional street food of Central Italy. Matt Lendermill has been serving up this slow roasted pork with savoury herbs on a bun, at the market, since it started several years ago. Wash the sandwich down with a Vermont Maple Lemonade while you soak in some sun on the schoolyard steps. It’s worth it to linger there awhile and just take in the market scene according to Chris Oricchio. He’s been selling his rustic furniture and framed chalkboards made out of reclaimed wood for six years at Fort Greene. “It’s some of the most interesting people-watching you’re going to see for sure,” Chris said. “Some of the stuff I’ve seen, you really wouldn’t be able to make up.”
For some of the stuff *I* saw at my day at Fort Greene market, take a look at my photos in the gallery.
Until next time,