THE FLEA MARKET AT EASTERN MARKET HISTORY: since 1983
The Market has been operating continuously for 30 years under the management of DMM partner Tom Rall, who still sells vintage photography, maps and contempary art pottery here. Rall founded The Flea Market at Eastern Market in 1984 around the North Hall of Eastern Market,, under an agreement with Market 5 Gallery, then the North Hall tenant, The market expanded to the Hine School in 1993 and has continuously operated there for the past 20 years.
In 2009, the District of Columbia assumed control and management of Eastern Market, severing the contract of Market 5 Gallery and thus Rall’s sublease for sidewalk vending at Eastern Market on Sundays.
DMM was formed in 2005 among Rall’s management team in order to create additional events for the long waiting list of exhibitors who could not get permanent space at the Flea Market due to its popularity. Michael Berman, who worked for Rall for years assisting in the marketing, branding and communications for the Market, and who, as an artist selling at Eastern Market since 1993, was very active in organizing and promoting exhibitors at Eastern Market, assumed the director role for the company. DMM became the official ownership entity of The Flea Market in 2011. As the numerous staff and DMM partners have all been involved with The Flea Market for decades, the transition was seamless.
The Flea Market, which boasted on its 3rd year of operations that it had exhibitors from 5 states, now hosts exhibitors from 5 continents. Though not the largest flea market, it is arguably one of the most diverse in the nation. The Flea Market features arts, crafts, antiques, collectibles, and imports from around the world. Exhibitors are extremely knowledgeable of their wares and many actually make their products.
The flea market has been a turning point in the development pattern of Capitol Hill. When it opened, Eastern Market was closed and the streets were deserted on Sundays. Due in large part to the foot traffic created by the flea market, Eastern Market is now a major destination for locals, area residents and tourists. What once was an under utilized public space on Sundays, Rall turned into a contributing element of an economic revitalization that realtors and guides call the “heart of Capitol Hill”.
Housing values have skyrocketed, area stores and restaurants are crowded, surrounding businesses are thriving. Indeed, a key reason that there’s such interest and value in developing the Hine parcel is because of the social and economic impact the weekend markets have had on the location.
Exhibitors come from as near as the neighborhood, from across the city, and from area suburbs. In fact, several antique vendors drive as many as four hours each way and they come each week. The market’s reputation is so well known that exhibitors from other areas of the country arrive seasonally or pass through while on the show circuit. The market has been called one of the “best small markets in the country”. In a Huffington Post poll, it was voted the second best market in the world. It’s been featured in a PBS documentary of flea markets, in numerous travel magazines and cable travel shows, and in local publications including The Washington Post.