In a down economy, one storage facility near San Francisco is trying a range of innovative tactics to grow business — including a monthly swap meet. Bridge Storage in Richmond, Calif., is launching the flea market on the grounds of the storage business. “Our customers who store here want to sell things,” says Laura Johnson, general manager of the facility, “and outside vendors can come and sell, too.”
A trial-run flea market was held in October, which was a big success. Now, with a Feb. 19 grand opening, the swap meet will run every third Saturday of the month. Organizers are expecting 50 vendors to attend.
But the Bridge Storage Swap Meet is not the only innovation that the storage company is using to build business. In addition, the market has storage space upgraded as studios and workspaces for artists, from potters to musicians. “We have rental spaces for all kinds of artists,” says Johnson. “We lease them work spaces. They are converted storage units, with skylights, French doors, electricity, water. Everything an artist might need in a studio.”
According to swap meet coordinator Justine tenZeldam, the people who are renting storage spaces will sell out of their spaces. “They’ll be opening their spaces and selling. Others are outside, and they need to bring a canopy if they want coverage,” she says, describing an eclectic range of merchandise. “So far there have been antiques and collectibles, vintage clothing, books, movies, other media, household goods — mostly used merchandise,” she says. The market is open to new merchandise if anyone wants to sell that. Some artists may sell at the flea market as well.
Starting a new business in this economy can be tricky, and tenZeldam explains the motivation for launching the market in clear-cut words. “None of us can seem to find decent jobs that we want to stick with, so buying and selling at flea markets lets us make money the old fashioned way, buying low and selling high,” she laughs. She says that prices for a 10×10 space range from $10 to $50, depending on a range of variables. She is using advertising, sponsors, fliers, word of mouth, Facebook, and a Web site to get the word out.
She says that the location is right off the freeway, and the local government has been good to work with. “The city of Richmond is super-duper easy to do business in,” she says. “It’s the era of the street vendor, and Richmond seems to have no problem with that.” On the other hand, the town has a dangerous reputation, which tenZeldam says is something she has to fight. “It is safe during the day, and this neighborhood is very quiet.” For more information on the Bridge Storage Swap Meet, call (510) 233-3348 or (831) 440-7699.
Feb. 17 Update: The Bridge Swap Meet is offering free or reduced fee bike repairs to local residents for its Feb. 19 session.