Rainy skies did not dampen the excitement at the grand opening of Pittsburgh Flea on April 18, the first city-center flea market to open in Pittsburgh in 17 years.
Janis Surman, the owner of the market, was inspired to open the market after being unemployed for a year. “Because of the poor economy, a lot of people are trying to be creative in making new jobs or to figure out how to provide income for themselves,” she says. “That’s exactly what I was trying to do. I thought, ‘I’m going to have to create my own job.’ ”
She pondered the idea, seeing a clear opportunity. “Every city typically has a downtown flea market, but our city is one that doesn’t. I thought that was quite a void that needed to be filled.”
She had some homework to do.“I drove around to look for a wide open, available, easy-access area that people would not have difficulty finding — a pleasant space that would be suitable for vendors,” she says. Her search brought her to a site in The Strip, a busy section of Pittsburgh’s downtown. “I targeted it, approached the owners, and got a fair lease price. It’s not cheap, but it’s fair.”
Surman recruited 240 vendors for the first day, with another 40 on a waiting list, though there were a few no-shows due to the chilly weather. Vendors came from New York and Virginia, though most were local. Some tables rotate among vendors, and others are permanent homes for the vendors who rent them. The market Web site has more news and a contact page.
Surman hopes to keep interest up with a no-entry-fee policy as well as entertainment. “The market is free to attend — I have no plan on charging this year, and I would like to keep it free as long as I can. There was a DJ at the first market. People enjoyed that. As the summer goes on, I’ll continue to look at other types of events,” she says. “We just continue to hope for good weather.”
Hat tip to The Pitt News for its article on the market.