Photos: John Barkiple
If you’re guilty of spending glaze-eyed hours perusing Etsy and Pinterest, the time has come to attend the real-life, local version of online shopping—and you won’t even have to hashtag vintage. The Urban Flea Market—held one Sunday a month, May through October from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.—has everything from antique goods to bohemian clothing, all provided by Salt Lake artists, makers and thrifters. Curated by Kate Wheadon of KRCL 90.9 FM and Michael Sanders of Now & Again, the market is in its fifth season and has hit a sweet spot. “It’s not too big, and it’s not too small,” says Wheadon. As longtime friends and now business partners, the duo combines their individual tastes to create a well-rounded market. Sanders says, laughing, “Everyone and their sister-in-law comes out and sells a bunch of junk. It’s really awesome, and we have a great time.”
Influenced by the New York and L.A. style of inner-city parking lot markets, the Urban Flea is held Downtown on 600 South and Main Street. “When I moved to Salt Lake [from NYC], I asked, ‘Where are the flea markets?’ and realized there weren’t any,” Sanders says. Likewise, Wheadon found that she missed the markets of California and wanted to bring flea to Salt Lake: “I thought it would be a great way for people to come together,” she says. With nearly 80 vendors participating in the most recent Urban Flea and an ever-growing crowd of market-goers, it certainly facilitates a meeting ground for both those selling treasures and those hunting for them. The vendors are not organized into categories so that browsing through the market is an authentic searching experience where one could stumble into any number of handmade or vintage goods—whether it be sock monkeys or spoon rings.
The atmosphere of the Urban Flea is more intimate than a larger craft fair or farmers market but with just as much exciting energy. It is held in a tree-lined parking lot and is just the right size to browse. “People like to be there enjoying the experience, searching for that thing, finding it, picking it up and being wowed by it,” says Wheadon. Walking through the market, you will likely come across irresistible vendors such as Luna Dust—who features a dreamy collection of vintage Western and desert-inspired clothing, furniture and knick-knacks. It doesn’t so much matter which booths you end up exploring, as each one has something worth taking a look at.
Wheadon and Sanders work hard to create an environment that is fun and fulfilling, providing amenities such as food trucks and music DJed by KRCL’s Bad Brad Wheeler in addition to the wide variety of shopping. The most recent market did so well that the Chow Truck ran completely out of food, and the nearest coffee shop to the venue was depleted of their entire stock of coffee. This success is welcome as it is boosting local businesses, creating healthy relationships and ensuring that each booth is able to make a profit. “We like our vendors to be happy,” Sanders says. As curators, Wheadon and Sanders do everything in their power to make Urban Flea affordable for vendors, charging an extremely low fee per market, which goes directly to paying for the space. The market is also free of admission, which is another way of supporting vendors and providing a valuable community event for Salt Lake City.
“We started the market because we love it,” says Wheadon. “We don’t do it to make money; we do it to provide resources for people. It is an opportunity for people to support their families, their hobbies and their art.” As they’ve reached their ideal capacity of vendors, the hope is that the growth and momentum of the market will continue in terms of community.
One way that Urban Flea has connected to Salt Lake on a larger scale is by featuring a different animal rescue with each market. Wheadon has worked with these organizations for many years and says, “I just want to highlight some of the rescues we have in our community.” Market-goers are invited to bring gently used, clean sheets and towels to be donated to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah and can also look forward to being able to gander at cute pets while getting their thrifting in.
With that in mind, there’s no reason to mope about wondering what to do on a Sunday in Salt Lake City any longer. Whether you’re in the market for something specific or just enjoy the search, you won’t leave empty-handed. Check out fleamarketslc.com for more information about the event and vendors, and be sure to check out this year’s markets on July 12, Aug. 9, Sept. 13 and Oct. 11.