Nov 11, 2011: Business Incubations at The Flea Market

It's been a while since we've written about Flea Market at Eastern Market business incubations that have morphed into brick and mortar stores; but it's an ongoing process and a good story. This edition has a fashion focus among four such stores, three of which have opened in Northwest DC.

First down the runway in January was It's Vintage Darling at 3423 14th St. NW in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. Featuring fashionable "hand-picked vintage one-of-a-kind finds, for men and women," the store is the creation of Kindall Hudgins, who began selling at the flea market "eight years ago" and Amira Hakim, also an exhibitor.

"We actually met at the flea market," said Hudgins, who like Hakim had also kept separate Sunday spaces at the flea market until they combined the stands last month.  It's Vintage Darling is open afternoons and evenings except Mondays.  

Rock It Again, "the premier source for Iconic Vintage Designs," also decided in January to locate in Columbia Heights at 1428 U Street, NW. The vintage clothier is co-owned by Clint Pierre and Aviyah Jacobi, both of whom originally had separate stands, now combined, at the flea market.

"A lot of places were boarded up," Pierre was quoted in a recent Washington Times article on the bustling neighborhood thrift store scene, which is helping revive storefronts there. Rock It Again is closed Saturdays but offers afternoon and early evening hours the rest of the week. For an idea of the inventory, the duo has posted dozens of fashion photos from both the flea and the store at:

Turquoise Jewelry Boutique was opened October 14 at 2118 18th St., NW in the Adams Morgan neighborhood by Cigdem and Mazar Ertekin, who emigrated from their native Turkey in 2000 following their marriage in the late 1990s.  Cigdem started the business at Eastern Market "with a little table" in 2005 which expanded rapidly, by 2008, into her permanent 200 square foot location in the Hine School yard.

Mazar said he quit his job to devote full time to the business and now runs the market location while Cigdem tends "this cozy store." The couple also "does lots of street festivals and special events like Downtown Holiday Market and the Turkish Festival," both in DC; and also jewelry and accessories shows all over the United States. Turquoise Jewelry Boutique, located between Wyoming and California Sts, NW, is open Noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

An interesting retailing story is that of Vibrant Art Wear, which was opened by entrepreneur Jo Axt at 301 N. Market St., Frederick, MD in 2001. Axt started selling at The Flea Market at Eastern Market in June 1999 and by April 2000 opened her first store, JAXTS, at Savage Mills Mall in Savage, MD. The business rapidly grew to five stores located in three Maryland cities: Frederick, Hagerstown and Columbia.

Now only Vibrant Art Wear, voted "Best Women's Fashions" in Frederick Magazine, remains open and Axt has returned to tap her flea market roots as well.  The new clothing and accessories store opens at 10 a.m. every day, and the inventory is also available online.

Jerilyn Paladino, who trades as The Alpaca Girl at the flea market, had an offshoot business, Alpaca Dogs, mentioned in a Peruvian Embassies newsletter that was "distributed to all of the companies in Peru who are interested in international trade opportunities." More about the dog wear line can be found here

Speaking of international trade involving Peruvians, it reminds us that several businesses with Peruvian roots have operated at the flea. Elmer Farfan, Cuatro Suyos,who specializes in Alpaca products (hats, scarves, ponchos) and other unique crafts handcrafted in Cusco, Peru; and Alexandra Rodriguez, Alexa's Empanadas, are still permanent exhibitors.

Finally, we should mention that Caos on F, the downtown DC art gallery that has showcased several Eastern Market artists since its opening in 2007, received a recent positive review in the Washington Post, which can be found here