Flea Markets at Eastern Market Set for Major Change This Weekend
By Larry Janezich
On Saturday and Sunday, November 11 and 12, the two weekend flea markets, currently operating on the 300 block of 7th Street, SE, will expand their operations to the newly reopened C Street between 7th and 8th Streets, SE.
The flea markets were evicted from the Hine Jr. High playground 30 months ago and relocated to 7th Street during the construction of the Hine Jr. High School redevelopment project. The city closed the 300 block of 7th Street to vehicular traffic on weekends to accommodate the flea markets, the plan being to relocate them on C Street once construction was complete.
The move was scheduled to happen September 30, but construction delays on C Street forced a postponement until the coming weekend. Whether the 300 block of 7th would remain closed to weekend vehicular traffic was uncertain until recently, when it became clear that it was the overwhelming desire of the community that it remain closed. Bowing to public opinion, the city offered to extend the flea market managers’ licenses to operate on the 300 block of 7th through the end of next May, at a 52% increase in rent while a strategic plan is developed for long term vending on the block.
The delayed move has been problematic for the flea market managers. Many of their former vendors have already committed to other venues for the upcoming holiday season. And the outdoor vending slowdown during the coldest months of the year means that it will be spring before the flea markets are back to being a full and healthy marketplace.
Sunday flea market manager Mike Berman told CHC, “We are going to open a market on the new C Street Plaza on Sunday. We will not be filled, but we will start using it and working out the logistics. We will play with configurations and layouts and try to accommodate our exhibitors as best we can into the space.”
Saturday flea market manager Carole Wright characterized the change as “bittersweet”, adding, “The many delays have thrown us into a soft opening in extremely cold temperatures. Because we were unable to guarantee a move-back date to our vendors for the last four months, many are doing indoor shows and some are awaiting a guarantee of space for vending“. On the other hand, she said, “Just standing on the new C Street and looking at the historic market from this angle is a great feeling. Convincing our vendors to come back this late in the year is our new focus and challenge. It might take time, but after vending between cranes and construction mud, it will be a thrill. Our vendors will be taking turns on 7th and C Streets to see where they best fit in”.
The recent decision to keep 7th Street between North Carolina and Pennsylvania Avenues closed to traffic on weekends has caused some grumbling among the South Hall food vendors in Eastern Market, who blame the loss of parking as responsible for a decline in business. Eastern Market manager Barry Margeson is working on a plan to provide validated parking to address these concerns.