Reflections from the Davis ‘flea lady’

By From page A6 | January 25, 2013

Check it out

What: Davis Flea Market, celebrating its first anniversary

When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday

Where: E Street Plaza, in the 200 block of E Street in downtown Davis

Info: www.davisfleamarket.org

By Lauren Norton

It still makes me smile when someone approaches me and says, “You’re the flea lady, right?” It’s kind of an unfortunate title, but one I’ve grown to love since we put on our first Davis Flea Market back in January of last year.

Kids and parents, students and seniors, collectors and performers, have all found an outlet and an audience at our monthly event on the E Street Plaza, and it has been a real joy to see our community grow and thrive. Now we’re gearing up for our first birthday market on Sunday, and it seems an appropriate time to thank the friends, volunteers and professionals in Davis who have tirelessly supported our efforts.

If you have yet to make it out to one of our markets, here’s how it works: We have a free online application on our website, davisfleamarket.org, and Davis residents are invited to apply to sell their “pre-loved” or handmade items. We pick between 30 and 40 vendors each month, based on the diversity of their wares, and charge them a registration fee to cover the operational costs of the market.

All of the profits pay our performers, and we have had some stellar acts fill our market with toe-tapping customers, from local legends The West Nile Ramblers to the nationally vaunted Two Man Gentlemen Band. As a singer, I always thought this was how an economy should work, with the musicians getting the largest slice of the pie!

As it turns out, there were enough idealistic folks in Davis willing to put this idea into practice for four hours, once a month. Davis Dollars’ mastermind Nicholas Barry immediately jumped on board to help me figure out the logistics, and Talon Entertainment’s Tim Kerbavaz offered his expertise with sound management and marketing.

City of Davis Public Relations Manager Bob Bowan guided us through the permitting, insurance and city space rental process and offered us a wealth of experience on how to put on a successful and safe event. I am truly grateful for Bob’s “let’s give it a go” attitude, especially when it meant a whole lot of extra work on his busy schedule.

Even though I’ve been a lifelong fan of flea markets, I don’t think anyone was as shocked as I was when more than 1,000 people showed up for our first event. Tha Dirt Feelin’ rocked the plaza, vendors and shoppers haggled over books and clothes that hadn’t seen the light of day in years, and our neighboring businesses were delighted with the increased foot traffic to their stores.

I love getting emails from the Yeti Restaurant asking if they can provide lunch to our performers free of charge, or from Teach Your Children’s Loren Skinner, asking how his business can sponsor the market with an advert in our FleaSheet.

Julie Cross, marketing director of the Davis Food Co-op, has been an unexpected and deeply appreciated mentor this past year, and I marvel at the amazing work she does for the Davis community.

As an organization, the Davis Flea has never been stronger. I am excited to be turning over the operation to my incredible interns from UC Davis and Davis High School over the coming year: Victoria, Aliyah, Daniel, Wendy and Ashley.

Along with the keys to the Flea, however, I’m handing over the struggle to keep our operation in the heart of Davis at a civilized hour. If we can no longer operate in the downtown district, due to increased costs, the pressures of parking and local anxiety over increased competition, we will be moving out of the E Street Plaza with heavy hearts.

We hope you will join us on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to witness the transformation of the usually empty plaza into a center of grassroots commerce, cultural consumption and neighborly fun. If you would like to apply to be a vendor, visit  www.davisfleamarket.org/apply.

— Lauren Norton of Davis has nurtured the Davis Flea Market for the past year.

Enterprise staff

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