On the second Sunday of every month between May and October, the parking lot on 23rd Street in the Strip District comes alive, as a pop-up marketplace takes over for the day. The Neighborhood Flea is the brainchild of Carrie Nardini — a former employee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh — whose love of flea markets and estate sales came from the many that she visited with her father as a young girl.
“I was helping to found the Cleveland Flea,” said Nardini, who is Jewish, “and I had such a fun experience with that.”
Nardini felt Pittsburgh was the perfect venue for a flea market, a place that the community and vendors “could really benefit from.” In 2013, the market had its inaugural opening.
Since then, the market has had no shortage of vendors, with Nardini estimating between 50 and 60 each month, selling everything from artisanal yogurt out of a food truck to retro vintage finds from antique store Junk and Disorderly. Each month’s Flea also features workshops from some of the participants, like creating your own found-object succulent planter.
On July 10, the market’s latest appearance, shoppers browsed stalls while Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” played through the speakers set up around the market. At the stand for Amazing Books and Records, run by Jewish Squirrel Hill resident Eric Ackland, couples looked through the milk crates full of vinyl and pulled out albums by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Aerosmith. Books were stacked three deep on the table and in bins on the ground, bibliophiles crowding around to peruse.
Ackland bought the store almost by accident — after a trip to the DMV on a cold winter day, only to discover upon arriving that it was closed. He sought refuge from the weather across the street at a small bookstore, which just happened to be for sale. Fast forward to 2016, and Amazing Books boasts three locations across the city. Ackland and his books are a recent addition to the Neighborhood Flea — it was only his second time manning the stall in the Strip District — but it’s a fun atmosphere, he said, surrounded by the other vendors and the crowds. Business was brisk too, and Ackland, who shielded himself from the sun with a wide-brimmed white hat. He was busy with customers: talking to them about favorite books, making recommendations, praising their choices.
Nardini also founded the I Made It! Market in 2007, which the website describes as “a fantastical, nomadic, pop-up handmade shopping place,” where vendors sell hand-crafted items. When choosing the location for the Neighborhood Flea, Nardini felt the Strip District best embodied the overall vibe of the market and that it would be most accessible on Sundays, when parking was free as well. Nardini was also hoping that, by holding the Flea on a Sunday, she could attract more Orthodox Jews, many of whom couldn’t make it to the I Made It! Markets, since they are typically held on Saturdays. “There’s a really interesting mix of goods” at the market, said Nardini, and a visit to the Flea is a “good opportunity for the Jewish community.”
>> The Neighborhood Flea runs the second Sunday of every month from May through October and can be found in the 23rd Street parking lot between Penn Avenue and Smallman Street in the Strip District.
Masha Shollar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.