The Hester Street Fair is a bustling flea market filled with vintage clothes and accessories, upcycled jewelry and home decor, handmade adornments, apparel, and brica-brac even a minimalist couldn’t turn down. Plus, things for kids, things for grooming, things for pets! And that’s just the stuff. The food… mmm, the food. Show up hungry ’cause they’ve got you covered in tacos, Pho, handmade ice cream sandwiches, assorted pickles, beef jerky, lobster rolls, hand-rolled pretzels, dumplings, delicious coffee, pies, cookies and cakes, macaroons, and so much more. Just what a body needs to feed the energy needed for the shopping ahead.
When you’re so dazzled by the fanfare, it’s ok that you might not think about what goes into creating such a successful, eclectic, weekly market. That’s why we caught up with one of Hester Street’s co-founding partners, SuChin Pak to illuminate us common folk on the behind-the-scenes of one of the Cities most popular markets. And aside from SuChin having such astute taste, she’s also a TV host for MTV – her gorgeous mug has even been on Oprah! – and her passion for the environment and how social change can effect the issue is no doubt part of the reason she gives energy to a power-to-the-people, green-lovin’ kinda commerce.
Meet SuChin and get the scoop!
Views of the Market
How do vendors apply? What sort of things do they need to present for you to evaluate their product? Do you ever approach sellers to join your market?
It’s really easy to apply, just log on to hesterstreetfair.com and answer a few questions about what size space you would need. We keep our booth prices intentionally low since we want to encourage first time sellers and new businesses. Attaching a photo and links to sites are always a good sign that a vendor knows what they’re doing! Also, we always remind vendors to keep in mind price points. We are an outdoor market that caters to an audience that would like to pick up things along the day….so we try to keep most of our items $50 and below. We are always in the market for new vendors and keep our eyes open, but luckily, we’ve had a great response and most of our applicants have come to us.
Do you like to populate your market with experienced, emerging or novice vendors? Why?
It’s nice to have a mix of both. Most of our market is filled with new vendors. We are not your traditional flea market….we’re much more of an incubator market where businesses can come to launch or test their products. We encourage first time sellers and for brick and mortar businesses to use our fair as another retail avenue. But of course, our most solid vendors, the ones that hold down the regular spots are often experienced sellers, especially in the category of vintage just because it takes a certain amount of time to build inventory and a customer base.
How often do you rotate your vendors and what contributes to this decision?
About 25% of our market are our regular vendors who are here just about every weekend. The rest rotate and are new. Because our space is small, we have to ensure that our market looks different every week. If you come to Hester Street Fair on one Saturday, it will look totally different than any other. This creates a lot more work for us, since we have to essentially build a new market every week, but none of us wanted to have an outdoor “mall”. The mix of our market is the most important when choosing vendors. We have 60 spots and we make sure that there are no vendors that duplicate or compete with each other. We try to have just one or a few sellers in each category. If we have one tea stand, we couldn’t do another. So, it forces us to make sure we always have the best of the best.
How does exclusivity factor into your decision as Flea Market curator?
It doesn’t at all. We are here to help launch and grow businesses, to limit vendors to just our market goes against the spirit of who we are. We are a community of entrepreneurs, so what’s best for one is best for the entire market. We look for handmade and carefully collected goods, so naturally, we don’t have sellers that have “franchise” businesses. We are not the tube socks and stick meat street fair. Because of this, many of our vendors only sell with us or maybe one other market since there is so much labor (and love!) involved in creating and selling the product.
Can you tell us more about your day to day responsibilities of being a Flea Market curator and is this different than a Flea Market organizer?
All of the partners are co-creators of the Fair. That means we do a bit of everything, from curating the market, to organizing the vendors to marketing and events. We all do a bit of everything. That being said, our partnership works because we all have different strengths. I do the press because it’s naturally where I have my contacts. My brother, Suhyun deals with the day to day and operational aspects of the market as well as booking vendors. Ron Castellano is our architect and deals with all of the elements that factor into the physical spaces of our market. Adam Zeller leads our marketing and new business strategy. But we all contribute to every aspect of the market. It’s a start up, so no one has the luxury of doing just one thing.
Can you tell us how you got started as the organizer and curator for the Hester St Market? And a bit of who you are.
My 3 other partners and I have all been obsessed with flea markets. Ron’s family has been vending at flea markets for many years. It was all just kind of a personal hobby and we noticed that over time, flea markets in New York City were starting to disappear. Our coop (my brother and I live in Seward Park), owns the space and when they asked residents to pitch ideas for an unused lot on Essex Street, we submitted ours! It all happened pretty quickly. I’ve worked as a television journalist for many years and I think understanding how to develop projects, pitch them and get them on air, has groomed me to do this. The creative process of television making and outdoor markets is surprisingly similar.
Thanks SuChin! To find out more about the Hester Street Fair and for a full list of vendors, visit them at hesterstreetfair.com