Somerville Flea market offers shopping, live music, visual displays

10/09/17 – Medford/Somerville, MA – A store owner sitting around her decorative artworks while talking to customers at Somerville Flea Market, Sep. 10, 2017. (Angelie Xiong / The Tufts Daily)

Located on a stretch of road along Holland Street in Davis Square, it’s hard to miss the Somerville Flea. A live band performing near the back of the market adds to the chatter of vendors and shoppers. Varieties of furniture, each collection eclectic in its own right, are proudly on display.

A staple of the Davis Square scene, the flea market runs every Sunday from June to October and is home to a number of vendors that embody the communal spirit of Somerville.

According to Abby Seaman, market partner and co-manager, the market was created in 2012 when founder and managing partner Greg Ghazil visited a flea market in New York City and was inspired to start one in Somerville. Seaman herself joined the market the following year when she applied to be a vendor and fell in love with the creative energy behind it.

“My favorite thing is seeing other people’s creativity, seeing what they do with things,” she said. “Even something as simple as how they set things up.”

Although she still participates in selling vintage items for the market, since joining, Seaman has also taken on an organizing role.

“There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that happens,” Seaman said. “You have to go through all of the vendor applications and other administrative things like invoicing.”

The process of becoming a vendor at the flea is selective. According to Seaman, in addition to a standard online application, prospective vendors are asked to submit a description and several photos. Ghazil and Seaman then go through and review each vendor. Seaman explained how the market is specifically curated to be a vintage and artisan market as well as to engage with local enterprises.

“We try to be mindful of supporting the local community, so we focus on local artisans and small companies,” Seaman said. “We’re trying to help Davis Square by bringing people here. It’s like a give and take — you could go out to brunch [in the square] and then come and listen to some music here.”

The market is also invested in improving the locale through environmental means.

“A lot of people take those things that were old and not loved anymore and are almost recycling it here,” Seaman said. “Somerville also does the no-plastic-bags policy and we’re trying to promote that.”

During the past six years, Seaman has watched the market evolve and has noticed certain values of the community. For example, she has also noticed the development of an understanding between the vendors and shoppers who come through.

“Flea markets are usually known for haggling,” she said. “The average Somerville customer is pretty intelligent and they haggle over vintage things, but if it’s an artist, they don’t necessarily do it. They get it. There isn’t always that distinction in other markets. They’re mindful of the work that went into making art and know that there’s value there.”

This sentiment is shared by several vendors in the market as well. Vendor Carla Gilbert was introduced to the market by a friend in its first year, and she has been with it ever since. Although based in Providence, R.I., she and her husband make the trip to Somerville every Sunday to showcase their variety of handmade goods, furniture and clothing.

“I sell a little bit of everything, it’s kind of crazy,” she said, gesturing to the tables around her tent. “If you need it, I probably have it here.”

Gilbert is no stranger to selling at markets, having showed at several in Rhode Island, but Somerville lends a familiarity and a sense of community that she identifies with. As a former resident of Medford and graduate of Suffolk University, she knew that she would find a place at the market.

“When my friend said that the market was in Somerville, I knew it would be my people [and] they would get me,” she said. “I was really interested [in coming] because I knew people would appreciate art and handmade things.”

According to Gilbert, the market has transitioned to a less transient customer base. To her, this means the continued expansion is something that she likens to family.

“We’ve had customers who have started with us and maybe they were just dating, not even living together,” she said. “Then the next summer, they were buying things for their apartment because they were moving in together. Then the next year they bought stuff for their wedding, the next year stuff for their house and this year they’re coming through with their kids.”

Gilbert has made connections with other vendors in the market as well, and she uses the word ‘frendor’ to describe the friendships among vendors.

“There are vendors who come to the birthday parties of our children. We’re all friends, we know when husbands are sick, and it’s great because if someone needs a hand, there’s always someone to help,” she said.

Kevin Guicho, a fellow vendor, shared Gilbert’s sense of associating the market with its people and the surrounding neighborhood. According to Guicho, he started selling at the market nearly five years ago using his mother’s collection of thrift-store finds. 

“My favorite thing is getting to interact with the people every week,” he said. “It’s a good place. I see a lot of the same faces. Most people come with good vibes and good attitudes. Even if they’re not looking to buy anything, they just come to get out and be a part of the community.”

Due to the outside setting, weather can pose a difficulty for vendors. Gilbert and Guicho both attested to the level of commitment required from participating vendors to continue to bring the market to its customers.

Gilbert recalled a particularly memorable experience that took place during Hurricane Sandy.

“One of my customers, who is still with me, had to pick up a piece of furniture,” she said. “The T was shutting down, but I wanted her to have it. So the minute she came down the ramp, we were ready to shut [the stall] down. There was so much water, but because we come in from Providence, we couldn’t [get] away. So we just stayed here and sold like crazy people.”

Seaman spoke about how expansion beyond Somerville is also within the market’s goals. The market has presented several additional events including a night market hosted by the Somerville Arts Council and Somerville Flea, according to a July 7 Somerville Patch article.

“We’re always really interested in expanding in Somerville,” Seaman said. “We’re not married to the idea of only ever being here on Sundays, we’re interested in keeping the mix fresh.”

Spencer Chossy, a regular at the market, also expressed excitement for the flea market’s future. He first ventured there because he personally knew vendors and stayed to make connections with the diverse community that the market draws out.

“My favorite thing about the market is talking to people and meeting new faces,” he said. “This area is so diverse. There are so many different cultural backgrounds, ideas and people of all ages. It’s a very earthy community-type feel when you come here, and I think it shows a lot of local art, how diverse Somerville is and how people can come together over the warm weather and enjoy the community.”