Author: Shirley Wong
“No one sings
Like you anymore.”
-Soundgarden (from “Black Hole Sun”)
What every Vancouverite should include on their bucket list: checking out the quintessential East Van event, The Eastside Flea. The Eastside Flea is not to be confused with the long running Vancouver Flea Market.
Both popular events reside in buildings not too far from each other, sometimes simultaneously. We found out that meant driving around for blocks, looking for a parking space. And be warned, take the extra minutes to find a legal parking space.
When we were at The Eastside Flea, a well-meaning homeless man came in the building shouting, “They’re towing cars out front. A red one’s going right now!” He definitely got the attention of some patrons who went rushing out the door.
This modern flea has travelled around for years in various locations, including: The Wise Hall on Adanac St., UBC pop-ups, ICONS Vintage Market (now defunct) and outdoor markets like Car Free Days or Food Cart Fest.
For years, Eastside Flea searched for a permanent home where locals could make connections with local vendors. In true East Van fashion, their goal has always been to create an independent venue where locals could shop sustainably. Booths include vintage clothes, collectibles, arts and crafts products and unique food.
In April, they finally found a new permanent home at The Ellis Building on Main, near Terminal Ave. This 1920s-era building needs a big revamp, although its fine heritage bones have great potential.
Their plans include building 15 artisan studios, a marketplace space large enough for 50 vendors, a stage for DIY workshops and an outdoor courtyard for food trucks, BBQs, etc.
As a result, Eastside Flea is asking for support from the community, who can donate on crowd funding site Indiegogo. With donations, they plan on upgrading washrooms ($5k), repairing the roof ($10k) and general structural repairs ($10k).
Beyond this building, know you’re also contributing to securing the future of a unique part of Vancouver’s arts and culture scene.
Some say the Eastside Flea reminds them of the cool fleas in New York. I haven’t been, but I would say it’s an interesting mix: bohemian, hipster, grungy, vintage, cool. In other words, it’s an authentic East Van experience – in that its the ultimate social venue for hanging out.
As we enter off Main, we see a lineup of locals in the median age of somewhere in their early to mid 30s. Today is the official Summer Kick-Off for the flea. Seeing this crowd makes me reflect on how back in the day, people would hangout at malls.
That was yesterday, because Vancouver’s values have evolved to where it’s cool to support independent businesses and local values: think farmers markets, neighbourhood events, food truck festivals and community gathering places like this flea.
Mike observes the most fascinating part of the flea: it’s set in an old neighbourhood, in a very old building, so the venue sets the context for the whole experience. Hosting the flea in a brand new building wouldn’t create the same ambience, which is something genuine, special and historic.
When we get to the front of the line, we pay $3 entry fee (alternatively, there’s $5 for the weekend). The girl takes our money, puts it into a little metal cash box and stamps our hands.
To the right, there’s a bright room filled with sweet succulent plants for sale by Simply Neglectable. Just outside is a girl selling magnets by Andrea Hooge – we recognize them from Far Out Coffee Post – she tells us her aunt makes them.
As we get further into the building, we realize that it’s actually multiple levels. We stop at the bar and order a small-batch Ginger Beer ($4) by Vancouver’s Dickie’s Ginger. If you’ve never had one, it’s cloudy like lemonade but spicy, intense and sweet. The little flecks of real ginger pieces are further proof this local company uses only natural ingredients to make their brew in small batches – fresh lemon, real ginger and cane sugar.
We pass a section with racks of vintage clothes and head up the stairs. There’s a large open room with a miscellany of collectibles, clothes by The Glass Cabin Vintage, jewellry, carved wood chopping boards. It’s crowded with people rifling through racks of clothes.
Mike must have a food radar because he’s located a table hawking handmade doughnuts by Glazed and Confused.
They have different prices for the doughnuts but we opt for the box of four for $10 which “pays forward” or donates a doughnut to someone who can’t afford it. The girl we’re talking to, Sheena Botelho, is friendly and hands us a business card and answers that she doesn’t have a storefront for her doughnut business – yet.
We get a box of the Lemon Poppyseed and Strawberry doughnuts which are impressive. If you’ve dreamed of a cruller doughnut glazed with tangy fruit, that’s what they are. They’re fluffy with a wonderfully rich, deep fried flavour. This would have to be my new favourites.
Head up another flight, you’ll end up at Kirby Jay Fisher, a men’s vintage clothing dealer, with has an enormous tee shirt collection.
We backtrack to the main floor again. This time we’re surprised to see a gigantic room with high ceilings, where we feel like mice in a giant barn. A diverse selection of vendors are here – like Goodmallows’ all natural marshmallows, hand embroidery by El Patcha Embroidery, the Vancouver Farmers Market booth, even a table of old school game systems from Nintendo and Atari.
The most wonderful surprise of this flea – and impression it left on us – is how many high quality, small businesses use the flea to get their name out there. They say there’s a party tonight, for the kick off – it’s obvious there’s reason to celebrate.
Want to visit?
The Ellis Building @ 1024 Main St
Operating hours here. Third weekend of every month.
Tip: For the most current updates, we recommend following Eastside Flea’s Instagram.