In the world of flea markets nothing really happens in a vacuum. When changes are made to any popular flea market those changes, to varying degrees, change that flea market’s experience for everyone involved. The Jefferson Square Park Flea Market at Fourth Street and Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia will take place this coming Saturday (October 7) and it will be its first time running under a new rule implemented by Phila Flea Markets at the behest of those in charge of caring for the park.
The layout of Jefferson Square was always that vendors were set up around the perimeter of the park on the sidewalks and inside the park itself, on the edges of the grass. Spaces around the perimeter were larger and regular-priced (currently $80) while the interior spaces were smaller and half-priced. The new rule is that vendors will no longer be allowed to set up inside the park as their vehicles, according to park officials, does damage to the grass.
Under the old format, I always advised shoppers to work (visit) the inside of the park first as the cheaper space price attracted more non-professionals (casual vendors) who tended to offer better deals. This was a generalization and certainly not etched in stone but for the most part professional and semi-professional vendors did set up around park’s perimeter and casual/amateur vendors filled its interior.
Now, with the new rule, there will be not only less vendors overall but, I’m sure, less casual vendors since most who were willing to pay $40 for a space will not be willing to pay twice as much. However, does that now mean that this flea market should be ignored by pickers and other types of bargain hunters? No, not at all, and below I give several reasons why:
- Long Division: Phila Flea Markets has always been big on providing big spaces for vendors and that is especially true at Jefferson Square Park Flea Market and especially around the perimeter. Vendors who would not pay the $80 space price can easily share an outside space with a friend for the same price they paid inside. I’m sure at least a few of the inside regulars will do just that.
- It’s an Elbow Room Thing: Several casual vendors who have a lot of merchandise and therefore need more room have always set up around the park’s perimeter.
- Majority Rules: The perimeter vendors always made up the bulk of the flea market, outnumbering interior vendors by at least 2.5 to 1 (my rough guesstimate but probably not too far off—and when space size is considered, the perimeter merchandise probably outnumbered interior merchandise by more like 3 or 4 to 1). In other words, there will still be lots of stuff for shoppers to peruse.
- Slummin’ It: Jefferson Square has always been one of Phila Flea Markets’s “lower-end” markets so several professional vendors either do not set up there at all or adjust their merchandise and prices accordingly. The neighborhood surrounding the park is very eclectic; made up mainly, and more traditionally, of working class and lower income residents in addition to the newer hipster and yuppie crowd.
- Party Crashers: Many neighbors in Jefferson Square Park’s general vicinity, several directly across the street, cash in on the traffic generated by the flea market by having their own private sidewalk sales. I don’t think I’ve ever not found something worthwhile at one of those sales.
- Less-Mazing: With vendors only lining the outside sidewalks of the park, it will a much easier for shoppers to navigate. All they need to do is circle the outside of the park without having to ask themselves, “did I go up that aisle yet?”
- Reprieve? This one is a long shot and not really a viable reason to either visit or not visit Jefferson Square Park Flea Market on Saturday—so, as they say, don’t hold your breath—but its not like it hasn’t happened before. About three of four years ago word had spread a few days before a Jefferson Square date that interior vendors would no longer be allowed to set up inside the park (for the same reason as now). However, on the morning of that particular market, Phila Flea Markets did indeed allow vendors inside the park. The reason for the last-minute change I never found out for sure but I always assumed that park officials changed their minds sometime between very late Friday evening and early Saturday morning. I doubt that will happen this Saturday since last time the news was spread strictly by word-of-mouth and not announced officially by Phila Flea Markets. This time the news was clearly and prominently stated on the organization’s website and in emails sent out to the the thousands on its mailing list. In other words, it’s way more official now.
Please note that flea market reviews and posts like this are solely the opinions of those who write them. Flea Market Philadelphia cannot guarantee that anyone’s experience will be the same as or even similar to the individuals who write them. That said I will include that I’ve sold and shopped/picked the Jefferson Square Park Flea Market several times over the years and personally know several vendors who have also done so.