The founders of Brooklyn Flea, New York City’s booming outdoor market of independent food and merchandise, plan to open a similar concept in the District’s U Street neighborhood this fall.
District Flea, as founders Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby are calling it, will open on Florida Avenue two blocks north of U Street for a run of six Saturdays beginning Sept. 14. Their market in New York features some 150 vendors selling food, jewelry, antiques, furniture, crafts, vintage clothing and records in multiple locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Demby said they first launched their market at a time when Brooklyn had yet to become the hipster hotbed it is today. “In 2007, having a market in Brooklyn that would attract people coming from beyond Brooklyn was something of an ambitious idea,” he said.
Neither founder had a professional retail background before founding Brooklyn Flea; Demby worked in New York City politics, and Butler previously worked on Wall Street and founded the Brooklyn blog Brownstoner.com.
Demby said they lined up about 120 vendors for the first Saturday, in April 2008, and thousands of people arrived. “The lore says that 20,000 people came but that’s probably a little high,” he said. Last year the New York Times called the Brooklyn Flea founders “Kings of a Small-Batch Empire.” Earlier this summer the duo expanded to Philadelphia.
District Flea plans to launch on about 37,000 square feet of a vacant lot at 945 Florida Avenue, up the street from the 9:30 Club, on a site that is part of the Atlantic Plumbing apartment project planned by Bethesda-based developer JBG Cos. Demby said they have begun signing local vendors but are still on the hunt for others. Interested vendors can apply at Districtflea.com.
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