The team behind Smorgasburg and the Brooklyn Flea will soon debut a new venture, Hester Flea, on the Lower East Side, in the space previously programmed by the Hester Street Fair.
A couple of weeks ago, it became known that the Seward Park Cooperative, which owns the lot at the eastern end of Hester Street, decided against granting the Hester Street Fair a new lease. While the co-op’s board noted that it had chosen to go with a different operator, it did not name names. In a followup memo to residents of the large co-op complex yesterday, the board and management announced that, “Flea Industries… have struck an agreement to operate events and an outdoor market on our Hester Street lot, beginning Saturdays in mid-April 2021.”
And then a few hours ago, Hester Flea chimed in with its first post on Instagram, saying, “We’re excited to get going in just a couple of weeks with a great bunch of vendors offering antique + vintage finds, clothing, jewelry, ceramics, plants + more!… Thanks for being here and we’ll see you all on the Lower East Side very soon!”
Hester Flea will feature 20-25 vendors (50% capacity) until pandemic restrictions are lifted and, according to the Seward Park Co-op, “customer capacity will also be regulated accordingly.” Sunday hours are expected to be added in May or June. Hester Flea plans to go through the December holidays. In addition to clothing, jewelry and household items, there will be a few food vendors.
Eric Demby, co founder of Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, told Curbed, “We certainly sympathize with the plight of folks who were selling [at Hester Street Fair] who no longer have a place to sell, or feel like they don’t have a place to sell because the operators have changed.” He said the new market would still be neighborhood friendly but would also seek to draw people from other parts of downtown.
On its website, Smorgasburg is touted as “the largest weekly open air food market in America, attracting 20,000 to 30,000 people to Brooklyn each weekend to eat from 100 local vendors.” The Brooklyn Flea operates in Williamsburg, Dumbo and Chelsea.
Hester Street Fair operators launched a campaign to remain in place for at least a little while longer, saying they learned about the cooperative’s decision just four weeks before opening day. A 10 year lease had expired and HSF was granted a one year extension. In an online petition, they highlighted the accessibility of the fair and affordability for vendors.
In its memo, the Seward Park Co-op stated, “The market at Hester Street grew from a concept for our space devised by the board in 2009 and found expression with the original owners of The Big Social LLC, over a decade ago. Since then, ownership of The Big Social has changed more than once, and, while the board granted a one-year extension of its license expiring in 2019, there were never any indications in 2020 or earlier this year that the company would continue to operate the event space in 2021. The board certainly sympathizes with the vendors who participated in the Hester Street Fair, or who paid vendor fees for 2021 in advance to The Big Social.”
Vendors interested in becoming part of the Hester Flea can email the operators at: firstname.lastname@example.org.