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Posted: 06-25-2014
The Spring Flea at BAC 2014

Written by John Arthur Levering

At first glance, the Spring Flea at BAC resembles a flea market, but spend any amount of time at the three-day extravaganza and you soon see that “flea market” is an insufficient label, one that doesn’t do it justice. With the Brooklyn Arts Center’s patented flair for the unique—Bloody Mary’s and mimosas while you shop, cool tunes playing on the sound system, food truck parked out front—the Spring Flea is anything but an ordinary flea market. It’s a culmination of hard work, creativity, and community.

The main floor of the historic St. Andrews Church houses twenty-five different and distinct flea vendors, both newcomers and veterans alike, selling one-of-kind antiques, Pop Culture mementos, jewelry, clothing, furniture, art, and more. Another wave of vendors has set up shop under the tent in the BAC courtyard—and absolutely can’t be missed—but first there are vintage finds in the church that catch the eye.

Vendor Raana Larea, owner and operator of Trash to Treasures, is no stranger to the Brooklyn Arts Center. The 2014 Spring Flea is the fourth time she’s participated in one of the BAC Fleas. “I always love to come out and see everyone,” Larea says. “It’s a great community and a fun time to catch up with everyone. It’s awesome to talk to people about my place and get people who haven’t been yet to come out to my store.”

Trash to Treasures, located at 6304 Castle Hayne Road, is itself similar to the BAC Flea. It’s home to permanent vendors who sell a variety of antiques and vintage knick-knacks. The Trash to Treasures booth at the Spring Flea has old glass Dr. Pepper bottles, pristine vintage suitcases and briefcases, and iron birdcages. Despite running a flea market, which is closer to an antiques mall, Larea finds the Spring Flea at BAC to be a wonderful event.

“It’s the sense of community,” she says. “It’s really nice to see people come out and support local businesses and local vendors—I think that’s really important. Sometimes it’s easy to bypass these little places, but when they are all together and when there’s all this advertising that the Brooklyn Arts Center does, it really brings people in.”

Often reserved for brides and musicians, Siggy Parker’s General Store has taken over the BAC stage for the Spring Flea—and it barely has enough space for all their items. Stepping onto the stage is equivalent to stepping into a Pop Culture time capsule—framed posters from old movies and Grateful Dead concerts hang on the walls, catching the shoppers’ eyes from anywhere on the main floor.

There are Royal typewriters (in working condition) sitting on the floor, and bins with mint copies of Rolling Stone and Life from the ’70s and ’80s on the tables. Antique license plates from California, New York, and Michigan are scattered throughout the stage. Add these to the two racks of vintage T-shirts, and it’s clear that Siggy Parker’s General Store doesn’t specialize in any one thing—they specialize in everything.

“I travel across the country for my job,” Dan Potenza, owner of Siggy Parker’s General Store, says. “In my free time I go to flea markets, browse Craigslist, and call friends, then I throw as much as I can in my van and head home.”

Siggy Parker’s General Store is a huge hit because they have something for everyone and something in every price range. Despite taking up almost every square inch of space the stage has to offer, Dan Potenza says they “dialed it back this weekend.” Anyone looking for the physical location of the General Store won’t find it, but they can find any un-sold items (if there are any) from the weekend, as well as the rest of their inventory on Etsy.com.

Elsewhere on the main floor, Mike Bryand, a local artist and familiar face at the Flea (and other BAC events), interacts with shoppers and talks about his art. Taking Wilmington and its surrounding area’s milestones as his subject, Bryand blurs the lines between painting and photography, making it hard to distinguish that his art is, in fact, photographs. “That’s how I know I’m successful,” Bryand says, “when you look at it and can’t tell if it’s a painting or a photograph.” There are photos of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, the River Walk, Johnny Mercer’s Pier, Lighthouse Beer and Wine, and virtually every iconic landmark in New Hanover County. Bryand even has a print of the Brooklyn Arts Center for sale. “This is my favorite venue in Wilmington,” Bryand says. “It’s the atmosphere. It’s a very easy set-up, and they (the BAC) are super accommodating. But you can’t create atmosphere—you make it.”

Upon entering the Spring Flea, the nearly 1,000 attendees are greeted with smiles, handed a raffle ticket, and reminded to make it out to the tent and the alleyway. The people, though, should need no enticing because the vendors in the alleyway and the courtyard are a seamless continuation of the Spring Flea—a continuation of creativity and community.

In the alleyway, there are two vendors, one of handmade jewelry and another of art. Steve Neil, who runs Pallet Art by Steve, is a Flea newcomer, though you’d never guess that based on his work, which takes fish and turtles as its subject. Neil, once an Art major in college before pursuing a career as a realtor, has to first find pallets that aren’t dirty and shape them into his canvases long before it turns into the polished product. “It came about as an accident,” he says. “I painted it once and thought, ‘Oh, that looks pretty good.’” Despite its origins, Pallet Art by Steve looks nothing like an accident; instead, it looks like something fit for oceanfront homes.

The big tent in the courtyard doesn’t have quite as many vendors as the main floor does, but it does have a full coffee shop, serving local roaster Lativa’s coffee. Joining Lativa are vintage vendors selling up-cycled art, original holiday cards, clothing, and more.

Re’Wine Art & Design, a rookie at the Flea, takes wine barrels and liquor bottles and turns them into art and furniture. There are nightstand lamps made out of Jim Beam and Evan Williams bottles, candle holders made from wine bottles, and a reclining chair made from a wine barrel. “I’ve come here before as a shopper before,” Mike Fox, owner of Re’Wine, says. “I’m glad to do it as a vendor, though. It’s been great—we’ve gotten a lot of good reactions from the attendees.” Re’Wine’s motto is Designed to be unique. Designed to be collectible, and the items at the Flea are no exception. With careful consideration of each individual piece of wood, Fox has created a high-end response to the repackaged alcohol art genre.

Right beside the Re’Wine booth, Guttersnipe, a local independent letterpress and design company, proudly displays their greeting cards. With short, snarky, and honest messages (“I’ll always be Mommy’s little monster”), Guttersnipe’s cards are a welcome alternative to the clichéd Hallmarks you often receive.

Guttersnipe also sells two different types of T-shirt, each with Wilmington and Wilmingtonians as its intended purchaser. One is a play on Pabst Blue Ribbon’s logo with “Established in 1739” written in white script above a blue ribbon that says “Wilmington, North Carolina. Cape Fear.”

The second T-shirt design, which also comes in stickers, has a picture of a turtle with wings, flying. Its message, “Make Wilmington Weirder,” echoes the effect—maybe not so much weirder as cooler—the Spring Flea, and the Brooklyn Arts Center in general, has on Wilmington.

Spending a weekend at the Spring Flea, one is challenged to find the exact reason why this is not an ordinary flea market. It’s something that is impossible, because no one thing makes the Spring Flea unique — a combination of hospitality, atmosphere, and high quality, vintage art, antiques, and collectible help make the BAC Flea unique.

There is one difference, though, that points to what makes the Spring Flea stand above your Saturday morning, parking lot flea market. In a flea market, one is searching, sometimes desperately and hopelessly, to find the needle in the haystack, the one item that makes it worth their time. At the Spring Flea, it’s all needles. The challenge is to narrow it down to only one awesome item. Many flea-goers take home more than one.

A weekend is hardly enough time to take in everything the Spring Flea at BAC has to offer, but it does allow one to see the seemingly limitless possibilities of finding something that you’ve never even imagined could exist.

Leaving the Spring Flea, attendees check the raffle drawing board to see if they’ve won, and many ask about the next time the BAC will hold an event like this. (The annual Holiday Flea at BAC takes place Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, December 5, 6, and 7.) With smiles and purchases in hand, attendees gladly give brief explanations of their vintage scores before exiting.

Making her way down the stairs of St. Andrews Church, one attendee sums the weekend up in six words: “We came. We bought. We loved.”


 




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