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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  • Trev

    “the parking stinks;”

    There’s a huge free parking lot right next to the Piazza.

    • mattyj

      The signs don’t say it’s a free lot. My wife and I went to the Flea Market and parked pretty way on the street because we assumed the lot was permit parking.

    • 5peakeasy

      There are “If You Park Here, You Will Be Towed” signs all over that lot. It’s not free; it’s permit-only.

    • wordsalad

      I emailed Brooklyn Flea with questions about parking before the first flea event happened and got a very trite response which amounted to “there’s street parking, not our problem”.

    • Michele

      That lot has a FREE side and a PERMIT side which are terribly marked. I was towed from there once and it was a horrendous experience that ended up costing us over $200 and a long cab ride down to South Philly to get our car back. Will never park in that lot again!

    • mike

      no it is not free. it is 10 bucks

    • thatsnotmyname

      During the Brooklyn Flea, there was a $10 (sometimes $15) charge to park in the “free” lot. And times when money was being collected was not consistent. Some days they charged until after 7pm (where I would count maybe 8 cars in the lot) and others they would only charge until 1pm (I’m guessing because it was too hot).

  • Amanda Phickle

    I’m completely biased. Having said that, I do think the name was an issue and not just because of Philly pride. It was also an indication, like the author says, that they didn’t do their homework to understand this market. Number of WallStreeters and TrustFunders driving up the cost of everything in Philly is minimal or nonexistent. We are a neighborhoody people, and the Piazza is no one’s neighborhood. Anything held there reeks of corporate stuff trying to be hipster stuff.

    If I wanted to live in Brooklyn, I would live in Brooklyn. Plus, Philly Flea has such a nice ring to it!

    • Liz Spikol

      I agree about the name. I know Philadelphia gets pegged a lot as a parochial town — and not in a good way — but I like to think of it as municipal pride.

      Brands that transition to Philadelphia and make it work do so with regional care, like my former employer, the Curbed Network, which is out of New York. When they came here, they used the name Curbed Philly, simultaneously promoting the brand while giving the city its due.

    • Dave

      I saw an ad for this event over the summer, was slightly intrigued, saw what they were calling it and why, and found something better to do with my time. Like you, if I wanted Brooklyn, I’d go to Brooklyn. The name matters.

    • currentlyunknown

      You realize, of course, it would be Philly Phlea, right? Cause you know…Philly.

    • Denise Dougherty

      There is a “Philly Flea” that has been here for close to 20 years. A thriving flea and vintage/antique circuit, Philafleamarkets.org, has markets across the City throughout the the year. This weekend the indoor market opens through the end of March.

  • Howard Pitkow

    I’m sad to see it go but not surprised that it didn’t work out. It was not promoted very well. I stumbled upon it by accident while at the 2nd Street Festival this summer. I was thrilled to see it and planned to return this fall. If it had been marketed better and maybe less expensive for vendors it could have done better. Too bad it didn’t last.

    • Liz Spikol

      It really is too bad. But another flea market is growing out of this one — and it’s got a really good name: Franklin Flea.

  • lou skunt

    The Piazza is more of a cultural vortex than center.

  • Andrew Levitt

    Biggest red flag: improper idiom use. The proof is not in the pudding, Jon, it’s in the EATING of the pudding. Doomed from the start.

  • Grungy and Gone

    I really resented the name. I went there twice and thought they had some really good stuff, but the name left a bad taste in my mouth. Like, we’re supposed to be impressed?

  • Veillantif

    I have no problem buying old junk, but a red flag goes up in my head when it’s for sale in the Piazza, essentially a strip mall with grandiose pretensions. It makes me suspect that it’s meant to lure leisure-class kids who love the idea of slumming it but don’t want to get their hands dirty. That “Brooklyn” is anywhere in the name just seems to confirm that.

  • Monica

    I vended there several times this summer. If they had lowered the price of a booth to vendors for the first year to get it going, I believe they could have filled the space up almost every week. The problem was that it was $100 a booth and it was an almost impossible load in or load out for the hard working vendors that survived the heat all day to try to make a living. We didn’t even get free parking for out $100. And I agree about the lack of promotion. But word of mouth works best and if you lure good vendors in with a fair price and not breaking their back getting there, you would have a sustainable market.

  • pickaname

    The problem with the idea that Philly is the sixth boro is that it isn’t. If a business is going to move into Philly from Brooklyn, they have to realize that Philly IS NOT Brooklyn. You can’t have a carbon copy & expect that it will be received the same. Look at the recent Brooklyn imports’ failures. If they had taken the time to change a little to fit the Philly market, they might have done better.

  • Alice

    I love outdoor markets, and the Piazza is cool. I always find street parking pretty easily around there (much easier than CC, Old City or South Philly). But the time I went there this summer there were so few vendors, I was disappointed.

  • illadelph

    What hilarious is that there was a Philly made outdoor art market happening every week near the schuylkill banks called PHAIR, but ya never hear much thanks to all the press salivating over BF. The press is hungry for supporting a NYC machine, how about supporting the philly art scene.