Oh Happy Day!
Hey, y’all! Brittany here. Normally I let Allison, our editorial director, take over the blog so I can space-plan shows or hunt down cool vintage loot, but today I wanted to take a minute to say thank you and shed a few happy tears.
Today — OK, this week — is a big one, y’all. One year ago today, www.fleastyle.com went live. After about five months of branding meetings, logo design debates, web content brainstorming sessions, etc., our little website turned the lights on, and our first digital show application (yes, for six years I sent out a Word document to vendors) was born.
In some ways it feels like yesterday that Alyssa and I were toasting the launch over margaritas. In most ways, though, it feels like a lifetime ago. Although Flea Style is celebrating one year today, the company (formerly The Dallas Flea) actually celebrates seven years on Monday. Yep, seven years ago December 5, I held my very first curated market in a narrow underground hallway in Dallas. Now THAT feels like a few lifetimes ago!
For the first five years of The Dallas Flea, I hosted the event about twice a year with 60 or so vendors. It was a fun side project that allowed me connect with the maker and creative communities while I expanded my family and interior design career.
One Friday night each spring and fall my husband, mom and I would meticulously measure and tape off the 60 spaces with blue painter’s tape and pray that a punk wouldn’t come through the public space over night and rip everything to shreds. Saturday morning I would arrive by 6 a.m., pry open the doors, display some warm coffee and donuts, and help the vendors set up their spaces for the next three hours before showtime.
At 9 a.m., we were open to the public and roughly one to two thousand people would show up to shop. It was a really nice, fun little show. But we had zero growth potential in the space since we maxed it out each time with vendors. But I was not in a place personally to focus on expansion, as I had babies nearly back to back in the thick of those five years, and my decorating jobs were absorbing at least 12 hours of my day and having me on flights one to two days a week.
There was a serious gray time between 2012 and 2013 for the flea. I knew I needed to expand for it to grow and succeed but was torn which way —if at all — to take it. A store? A bigger space? An antique-mall-style space with leased booths to vendors? I spent thousands of dollars and hours on touring spaces, architectural plans on two venues I got super serious about, and lunches with friends to gab about my ideas and ask for advice. But my gut never let me settle on a location or idea during those years.
I later realized that there were bigger things in store for me during that time. For one, I surprisingly got pregnant with my second child, my son. And two, I landed my three largest design clients within months of each other in 2013. Side note: All three clients were out of town, so I was on a plane A LOT and literally didn’t have time to brush my hair, let alone focus on the flea.
But in January of 2015 when my son turned 1, I was ready to simmer down my design jobs and go back to fostering that little flea market that made my heart so happy. At this point, I had an assistant for my design work and together we focused on finding a new location and gearing up for the biggest flea yet.
I landed on a 25,000 square foot funky neon green shed in the heart of West Dallas with no air conditioning, heat, bathrooms and extremely sensitive electricity. Although it was far from fancy, it had a great location, loads of parking and that indie grit I always wanted in my spaces (our first digs were the original Sears warehouse underground train tracks).
I had a new logo and website designed and hit the ground hard, asking longtime Dallas Flea and up-and-coming makers to join the event. I set the date for mid-March and prayed the weather would cooperate since we had no central heating or air. The weather gods had other plans. The week before the show it snowed and snowed and snowed. In Dallas. Where it hardly ever snows. There was a ton of ice, too.
In addition, the city failed to mention to me that there was a yoga event, scheduled protest and 5k run all within a mile radius of the event, taking up every single parking spot (mind you, I needed at least 100 spots for my vendors before a single shopper showed up). Between these events and the weather, I was a wreck. I also had a 14-month-old and 3-year-old to take care of.
Friday set-up was hilarious. My dad and I literally shoveled snow and ice to let people and their wares through the door. How somebody didn’t slip and hurt themselves is still one of the world’s great unsolved mysteries. Remember, we had no heat. So we were all also on the verge of getting frost bite.
But then, somehow on Saturday, the sun poked its face out again and the snow started to melt and people were thrilled to get outside. And, I guess, shop a flea market. That day more than 5,000 people showed up for my little ol’ event. 5,000!!! That was 4,000 more than the previous event. I was understaffed, didn’t have nearly enough Porta-Potties, it was a soggy, muddy mess outside, and we ran the risk the entire day of being shut down due to crowd control. My dad literally valet parked cars to help people find parking spots.
But somehow we pulled it off. People were excited to get the heck out of their houses and shop. And I knew then and there my little passion project had legs. Now I had a huge decision to make.
In the fall, I kept the show in West Dallas but was already looking for a new space. The issues I had to deal with at that building will be an entire chapter of a book one day. Let’s just say bullet holes, thieves and the scariest electrical room you’ve ever seen will be highlights.
Side note: Right before the show, I hired Alyssa Cates, my director of operations/right-hand girl/superhero. She approached me at the perfect time, right when I was starting the rebranding process, so she’s literally been there every step of the way for the Flea Style transformation and growth from The Dallas Flea days to today.
By the second show at Trinity Groves in West Dallas, we had more than 6,000 shoppers and needed a ton more parking. In Dallas, my only option was Fair Park. So I signed on the dotted line and set the date for March 12 of this year.
Before the fall 2014 show at the green building I had started the rebranding process. I knew this event was going to grow quickly and beyond Dallas. A former client and friend of mine owns an incredible branding and web design agency in town and took me under his wing to say the least.
I wanted a name that reflected my company’s past but also its future. I settled on Flea Style because it just felt right. Luckily, the website was for sale and I snatched it up immediately along with anything else I could get my paws on (social media handles, etc.).
We got to work on the logo and I narrowed it down to my three favorites. I really liked the one below, but something was a tad off. When they first showed it to me it didn’t have the dandelion above. When they added that, I was sold. I have always been obsessed with dandelions, and as a kid I would always pick them in our frontyard and make a wish. It was the most perfect symbol for what Flea Style is all about.
So I’m jumping a bit out of order but during the rebranding phase, I knew I wanted to add another city to our show roster stat. I thought about it long and hard and landed on Houston because I felt that the market was a perfect fit for our vibe and less saturated than Austin. I really wanted to keep the first sister city in Texas.
I flew out solo last September and toured a couple spaces. I knew instantly that Silver Street Studios was our home and set a date for May 7.
Remember, I now have two full-time employees on staff. We needed more than a Dallas show to keep us afloat — and busy. Houston was the first step in growing our footprint and expanding our brand beyond Dallas. A YouTube channel soon followed to expand on ideas and happenings in house and also further connect with the creative community beyond Texas.
When we rebranded as Flea Style, the intention was to always have an online marketplace in addition to the shows. But one day early last year, I had the idea for a Summit to cushion our spring/fall shows but also really give back to the small business community that was our backbone for so long (both as in vendors and shoppers).
So immediately after the Houston show we launched Flea Style Summit and set a date for two months later. We had our work cut out for us!!! At the same time, we were also working on our online shop both gathering and creating products. The last week of July we hosted our first Flea Style Summit, launched www.shopfleastyle.com and introduced our first lifestyle label item, The Gypset Wrap.
This fall, we added our final platform (for the time being) to our plate: workshops. For as long as I’ve had the shows, I’ve wanted a space to have the vendors teach their craft during off-season. I just thought this was such a natural next step for Flea Style to further support the artisans and satisfy shoppers/fans wanting to continue to connect with them post-shows.
This year has been a wild, wonderful, windy ride. We are far from perfect and learning every single day how to grow gracefully while staying true to our mission to support and foster the small business community.
We are so thankful to all of you for following our journey and supporting our own small business. We are so excited about the future for Flea Style and to celebrate many more milestones with you over the years.
Cheers to seven years, y’all! And happy birthday, sweet Flea Style!!!
Keep shopping small, y’all,
P.S. As a little token of our appreciation, we are hosting a special Flash Sale on our site this Sunday at 8 p.m. for 24 hours. Every single item in the collection is $7. Yes, $7!!! Don’t miss it!!!