Store-ies 13: Neighborhood Flea
A visual archive of Pittsburgh retailers & their stories.
What’s the story behind your career, the journey that has led you to where you are today with Neighborhood Flea?
When I was young my family owned a business in Pittsburgh's Uptown neighborhood. I grew up going to our store and watching my grandmother, father, and uncle work along with the ups and downs of self-employment. From a young age I knew I wanted to build my own business and that it would somehow be related to the arts. My hobby was making jewelry which I was lucky to get to do through college at a now gone Pittsburgh spot called Tela Ropa. I sought out and enjoyed being involved in artistic endeavors like FLUX which was a pop up art event in Pittsburgh that happened in spaces that were in a state of "FLUX".
It was from these experiences and my marketing education that my first business, I Made It! Market was born in 2007. During college and after I had collected and basically hoarded plus sized vintage women's clothing in hopes of opening a shop where plus sized women could pop in and know they'd leave with a dress that looked awesome and made them feel amazing. Sadly this did not end up happening and I donated my collection BUT it didn't stop me from continuing to scour estate sales and flea markets for fun finds like I had done with my dad when I was growing up. The Flea was then born from a collaboration I had with an organization in Cleveland where I helped launch a Flea event. Why not do the same thing where I lived? So I did! I started the Neighborhood Flea in 2014 and we've had a rotating mix of the coolest sellers ever since.
Benefits and challenges of working with so many different vendors?
I am told often that people don't know how I do what I do. To me it's natural and I truly enjoy working with creative small business owners and individual sellers. My greatest satisfaction comes from helping small businesses to grow and flourish. The challenge comes in making sure to communicate clearly and effectively with everyone and to manage everyone's needs. I loved creating artwork but wasn't the best at it so I say my art is in the organization. And that's what you need to work with so many different vendors.
Which fashion designer or muse (dead or alive) would you love to collaborate with?
I kinda love John Fluevog and would love to help create a shoe design.
What is one fashion trend you are/were surprised to see pop-up from your vendors?
hmmm... This is a tough one. I'm excited to see 70s and 80s fashions resurface that Flea sellers like Sunday Morning Vintage, Style4Vintage, Keystone Relics, Little Bits and Pieces, and others are including in their curated selections. I was a bit surprised to see high waisted bottoms for men and women but I may be the only one who was surprised.
What's your biggest regret?
It might be a funny one. My biggest regret is not purchasing a home in Regent Square when I moved there in 1998. I lived there for 12 years and enjoyed all the neighborhood had to offer. I've had the opportunity to move to different neighborhoods since then so the silver lining would be in expanding my experiences into exploring other neighborhoods.
What's your next big step for the wonderful community that you have built?
We are always keeping our eyes peeled for opportunities to showcase our sellers' wares. If any real estate managers are reading, let us know what you have available for our sellers to pop into! It's always evolving as times change. It used to be that Pittsburgh had quite a few spaces and places that were open for us to explore. Now, as real estate has been developing at a speedy rate, those empty industrial and other spaces have become more rare. So part of the excitement is in the surprise and speed that we can bring our community together.
If you could make a documentary what would it be about?
I'd love to be able to show shoppers, visually, the process it takes for our sellers to bring wares to market. For both our artists at I Made It! Market, and our sellers at The Neighborhood Flea, there is more to it than meets the eye. It's definitely a labor of love as well as a business enterprise for many. The community aspect keeps us all pushing and innovating and making. I believe that shoppers understand this, but viewing the stories behind the sellers would make the connection that much deeper.