Hey, Pasadena, we have a stadium too! And anything you can do we can do… sort of.
Sunday was the first ever Dodgers Stadium flea market, which will be held, barring a Dodgers home game, on the third Sunday of every month. However, if they hope to draw crowds of flea marketers to the parking lot, the organizers need to put a lot more effort into finding decent vendors a month from now. Or they could scrap the flea market and be a food truck party, in which case they would already be winning.
Parking was a breeze, I arrived at about 10:00 am hoping to beat the heat a little bit. The heat won regardless, but such is life when you’re hanging out in a Los Angeles parking lot in the throes of summer. There was a short walk to the ticket booth where I paid my $5 and received my ticket. You could pay with a card and there were the only two ATM machines at the ready, no sign noting these as your last chance for green as these were the last machines I spotted all day.
Perhaps I have an East Coast bias when it comes to the age of vintage items, or maybe I was spoiled by the Pasadena City College flea market a few weeks ago. When I first walked into the LA Flea Market, I already felt this event was planned around food trucks, Rick Dees, and small business owners. Every fiber of my being routes for the small business to succeed, but today I also had hoped for a true flea market experience.
There were two sections of vendors, broken into three rows. The first section were pros. There were professional signs, every booth either featured handmade items or dollar-store-bought junk. I ran through the section hoping to find some signs of a flea market, instead it was some bastardized combination of swap meet, dollar store, regretsy.com, and a Sunday stroll at Echo Park Lake.
The only saving grace in the front section was the southernmost row, spotting the only crowd, I walked there last. Coming from the back, the first thing I noticed was a Rick Dee’s celebrity auction tent which I strode past because… well, it’s a Rick Dee’s celebrity auction tent and I was in search of a flea market.
The familiar crowd, the familiar smell, the red shirts, it all came together for me; the entire row was comprised of different Salvation Army stores. You know how you bought that dresser for $20 and it’s totally worth $250? You told your friends what a steal it was and you all had a laugh right? Well, the price tags in the SA section made me realize that they are actually aware how much some of their merchandise is worth, and they were priced as such. There were nice finds throughout this row, it obvious why it was the most crowded section. At the end of the day though, isn’t the fun of SA or Goodwill the thrill of finding the diamond in the rough (or maybe the thrill paying only $20)?
I visited the back section last and had high hopes. Figuring the front probably featured the high rent booths and my luck in the back would be much better. Sadly, it was more of the same.
Every booth was certainly not created equally and there were good finds along the way if you were willing to walk past booths of Dodgers and Lakers gear, tables of straw hats obviously bought from a dollar store, and at the out-of-place wine accoutrement stands you would occasionally stumble upon some vintage looking decorations destined for the wall of a cute apartment. All and all there was too much swap meet and too little kitsch.
The food trucks would be worthy of an article all to themselves and I am sure several will pop up in an attempt to salvage some positivity from the event, but for me the oft forgotten brick and mortar small business owner was going to have the final victory of the day. I drove off carrying only two empty water bottles and found myself at Xoia for lunch. I had yet to eat there and I feel it’s my duty as an Echo Park resident to always support my home team first, even though the lure of the truck food was almost unbeatable.
Colin Hughes is Echo Park Now’s latest guest blogger, and is a three-year resident of Echo Park. He also runs and writes for his own blog, Random Fits.