Transplanted Louisianan and design publicist Elizabeth Blitzer is a devoted flea marketer. She visits her neighborhood Housing Works daily and spends at least one weekend day cruising suburban garage sales and flea markets in search of original art and serving pieces. She bemoans the shrinking of Manhattan’s outdoor thrifts, but says that a few places are still worth repeat visits.
“The indoor flea markets in Manhattan tend to be overpriced, including the 25th Street Garage (112 W. 25th St, nr. Sixth Ave.). I’ve never found a real bargain. Items are laid out like merchandise—these people know what they have, and they display it pretty. But it’s a good place for a novice, or if you don’t like the down and dirty. It’s inside, it’s cleaner, it’s easier to understand. It’s not digging through piles of stuff. They have tons of bookplates, often botanical prints. They have linens, jewelry, mostly small things. The back area outside has furniture, and that’s gotten better lately.
“A bunch of the booths that used to be at 26th Street are now farther south (Sixth Ave. at 17th St.), which also puts you in the middle of great thrift stores—Housing Works (143 W. 17th St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-366-0820) and Angel Street (118 W. 17th St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-229-0546) are right there. There’s a guy I’ve gotten all sorts of art from, a frame guy. Empty frames are one of the best items to buy at flea markets. If you buy something already framed and take it to the frame shop—they’ll mat your art, put glass on it, and fix the back. It’ll only cost $18 to $30 to have your art inserted, and it looks like you’ve spent $500.
“They have a lot of clothes, not so much jewelry. It’s a little more piecemeal. Sometimes it feels like someone just emptied out their kitchen cabinets and set up a table.”
Outside New York
“Brimfield, about an hour from Boston, is a huge flea market, five days long, three times a year. The next one is next May. It’s a big production (brimfieldshow .com). Design people do their shopping there. If you’re trying to furnish an apartment, that’s a great place to go; they have every era and every style you could possibly want. Things are displayed, so it’s not rooting through boxes. Prices are good, probably because it’s not in New York. As the days go on, things are picked over, but prices go down and you can get good deals. I once got some great sterling silver there, tiny little vases.”