Brooklyn Flea Philly Shuts Down for Good, Says, “Sorry It Didn’t Work Out”

Photo via Brooklyn Flea Philly

Photo via Brooklyn Flea Philly

 

Above, the final tweet from the folks at Brooklyn Flea Philly, the NYC-to-PHL weekly flea market that is phenomenally popular in its native Brooklyn but failed to gain enough traction here to make it work.

The Brooklyn Flea was founded by Jonathan Butler, who’s also the founder of Brownstoner.com, Brooklyn’s real estate blog that tried to come to Philly, and failed after nine months. At the time, he told Technically Philly of the blog’s closure: “I thought the editorial was going great, but I was bleeding money with no sign of break-even on the horizon.”

Butler spoke with Philly Mag’s Victor Fiorillo when the Brooklyn Flea Philly opened, and that interview now seems to be a harbinger of poor decisions. Though Butler had the idea for doing a flea in Philly for a while, it seems he was quickly pushed into the Piazza location, perhaps without sufficient homework.

Did someone come to you with the Piazza location?

Yes. Jared Kushner [husband of Ivanka Trump and owner of the New York Observer newspaper] bought the Piazza, and he has a lot of exciting ideas. All the great stuff that Bart [Blatstein] has already done, he’s going to run the ball even further than Bart has. Jared sees the Piazza as a center of cultural energy. It’s the perfect place for us to try our first geographic expansion.

Jared is wrong. The Piazza is not a center of cultural energy, nor was it the perfect place.

Some other red flags:

Fiorillo asked if there would be any major changes:

The market will figure out what it wants to be. Opening day will look like one thing, and then it will look different over time.

What’s the cost to the vendor at Brooklyn Flea Philly?

$100 for a booth. A little cheaper than Brooklyn, where it’s anywhere from $120 to $220. [But far more than Philly vendors are used to.]

Do you expect any negative reaction from proud Philadelphians who don’t take kindly to using the name “Brooklyn” down here?

We’ve thought about that. When I opened Brownstoner down there, I had people telling me, “You can’t call it Brownstoner! You have to call it Rowhouser.” I understand local pride. But the whole reason we’re going down, we think it’s a great town. We need to stick with our brand. And brands transcend literalism at some point. Ultimately, a few people might grumble about it, but the proof will be in the pudding.

And so it is.

However, our take is that the location was the biggest obstacle. There is no question that if this event were in a different location–whatever its price points–it could have survived. The Piazza is confusing to get to for people who aren’t familiar with it; the parking stinks; there’s no signage; the Piazza did nothing to promote it; even people who do know where the Piazza is avoid being trapped there in the summer heat, like ants under glass, when they know there will be crowds.

Here are a few of the more salient reactions to the closure from the Flea’s Facebook page:

Kimmie Burns: This is really a shame. The Piazza does NOTHING to promote events or drive traffic. The turnover of shops and restaurants is proof. Waste of an amazing space that could be so much more.

Mara Jefferson: Bad location. NO signage on 2nd Street or the street on the other side of the square. Who would even know it was in there? Difficult to roll out in summer with 90+ temps and shoppers away on weekends, vendors drop off. If there are not enough vendors, real buyers are not going to keep coming back.

Louis Chang: I set up shop in the first ever Brooklyn flea and did super well. I have to say Philly is a totally different market. Philly does not command the same price point as NYC + the Piazza is just the worst place ever for these type of things because they just don’t get it.

The Shabby Chic Garden: Sad to see it go. I came from Rochester, NY to be a vendor. Sold great. Signage was needed. Staff was great. Once a month would be wonderful. One season does not make this type of event happen, it needs to grow and be steady. Sorry you are giving up so soon. .

Scarlet Rowe: Real sorry to see you go, it could have been great. It was nice to have a little taste of home in Philly, but you can’t attract crowds without promotion and you can’t attract vendors with NY
rental prices…

Danielle Levinson: I actually got some really amazing vintage clothes, shoes, and t-shirts there that were a great price. At least 1/2 price from what you’d pay in NY …I think the reason it failed is that there wasn’t enough foot traffic when it got really hot out…

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