Bright and early Saturday, the District Flea, the massive new Shaw flea market from the organizers of New York's uber-hip Brooklyn Flea, will fling open its gates. If you're a treasure-hunter or a foodie, you'd be wise to be among the first into the lot at Ninth Street and Florida Avenue NW at 10 a.m. if you want your pick of the best vintage eyeglass frames and lobster rolls.
Expect 70-80 vendors of antique furniture and vintage clothing in this 37,000-square-foot, freshly asphalted lot adjacent to the 9:30 Club and Satellite Room in Shaw. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 19, but organizers say a return next spring could happen if all goes well. Here are answers to a few of your inevitable questions:
What exactly are they selling?
Of the vendors this Saturday, about 15 will focus on furniture and antiques, and another 15 or so will be clothing vendors, many you can't usually find in storefronts. Hugh McIntosh, manager of District Flea, says that while some vendors responded to a callout, he also hand-selected sellers from Etsy and other sites to bring in must-buy items from the District and Baltimore, as well as Pennsylvania and Delaware. Expect glittery vintage dresses from D.C.'s Gypsy de la Lune, on-trend streetwear from Baltimore's Hunting Ground and '80s secretary dresses and glam jewelry from Earl's Closet. Joint Custody will bring '80s and '90s rock t-shirts, and there will be bow-ties and fascinators. McIntosh says there is no one style represented, but the unifier, he says, is that "The bar is high. We did say no to a lot of people."
• Read more about the furniture vendors who'll be at the Flea on Saturday here.
It sounds expensive. Is it expensive?
“There’s going to be a lot of stuff in the $20 to $100 range,” says McIntosh, though he adds that the Flea "doesn’t police prices" and doesn't select vendors based on their price points. You should expect to pay typical prices for antique pieces, which can be eye-poppingly pricey for the budget shopper. Most of the vendors accept credit cards, but bring cash as there won't be any ATMs at the market.
How is it different than Eastern Market?
Well, for starters, the outdoor vending is bigger. The lot, at 945 Florida Ave. NW, is sprawling, all the better for those furniture vendors to spread out.
Shopping makes me hangry. What can I eat?
The Brooklyn Flea is a food destination, a kind of living example of every food trend, from doughnuts to tacos, in one place. The District Flea is positioning itself the same way, as a marketplace to taste the best of D.C.'s burgeoning food community, though sadly, there are no freshly fried doughnuts just yet. Room 11 will be selling its buttery baked goods and popcorn; Chaya, the farmers market staple that serves up vegetarian-friendly tacos, will also be onsite, as will D.C.'s Vigilante Coffee, which will be brewing coffee as well as selling its lovingly roasted beans. Also expect those legendary Red Apron hot dogs, ice-cream sandwiches from Milk Cult and macaron from a Brooklyn macaron maker. Beginning next week, ChurchKey's Greg Engert will man a small beer garden, so you'll be able to sip, too. The food will be in a single area, so you can hit a few at a time; expect to stand while you eat.
Will District Flea return in 2014?
Says McIntosh: "We’re viewing this as dipping our toe in the water in D.C. If things go really great, we’ll do a whole season," he says, adding that a return in April to November of 2014 is on the table. "If we get to week six and people are saying, 'Please don’t go,' we might stick around for a while."
Follow Lavanya Ramanathan on Twitter @lalamasala.