Sunday, June 29, 2014

Adios to the Chelsea Garage Antique Flea Market

When we read in The New York Times' Style Section on Thursday that the Chelsea Antique Garage Flea Market was closing this weekend, we were devastated. For more than two decades,  vendors on two floors of a parking garage had provided a treasure trove of antique and vintage clothing, jewelry, art and furniture. We had to go to mark the end of an era.

According to Crain's, a hotel developer purchased the space for $67.5 million and intends to spend an additional $300 million to erect a 270,000 square foot hotel tower.  (Don't get us started on the topic of developers!)

Besides being a prime shopping and great people-watching locale, the garage was at its best when it was unpredictable, affording unique opportunities to view all matter of odd and arcane collectibles. Case in point -- this clown suitcase and pair of polka dot shoes from Tigris Clowns in Syracuse, New York. You just know there is a story behind them.

We made it a point to go together on Saturday to say goodbye to our favorite vendors.  All is not lost - there are two other venues: one quite nearby, the other in the colorfully named Hell's Kitchen (now also called Clinton, post-gentrification).  But some dealers may not come back, and named options outside the city.  Will there be free buses, the way there are to Atlantic City casinos?

Many other collectors in New York City had the same idea as we did. Among many others, we ran into Zondra Foxx minus her usual Andrews Sisters wig and 1940s dress and gloves but wearing a red cherry necklace of her own design.

Lulu is a vendor who is always hard to miss. Her outfits are always a treat. She always has a booth at the big antique shows at The Pier and The Metropolitan Pavilion but also had a booth at the garage. Like many of the other vendors, she is moving one block east of Sixth Avenue on W. 25th Street to an outdoor parking lot.  The hat went home with Jean.

At one point, we stopped for a bite at a local deli and flagged down our friend Mika who happened to be walking by, heading to work at a local vintage clothing store. We couldn't resist taking a shot of her armload of green and yellow bakelite bangles.

Ziggy is one of the more interesting vendors, mixing his line of "Respect" tee shirts and jackets with vintage 1980s Thierry Mugler suits and everything you can possibly imagine in between. The name of his clothing line, which features his bearded visage, is derived from one of his many red-ink tatoos. One of his longer tats up one arm reads "Like a Rolling Stone".

Valerie found this fabulous newsprint jacket with drawstring collar, and Jean located the matching skirt nearby. The result is sure to make headlines!  It did not work with the hat, thus the naked head. This one went home with Valerie, who has inexplicably had her heart set on a newprint outfit for over a year.  And no, for those of you asking, she will not be wearing the striped dress under it.

As Saturday afternoon wore on, the temperature in the garage began to rise.  Many of the shoppers were mopping their brows, and many of the vendors had brought their own portable fans. When we ran into Julius at the southern end of the garage, he was looking fresh as a daisy and dressed to the nines!  How many men will dare to wear salmon colored pants?  And how many of those will look just great in them?

It was also great fun to run into Julie Dale, whose actor/singer/ dancer/comedian/acrobat husband is currently starring in his one-man show "Just Jim Dale" off-Broadway, till August 10. It is on our must-see list! Click here for Variety's review of the show.  And Julie, you will remember, ran our beloved Julie Artisans Gallery for many years.

Among Jean's big $5 purchases were two pairs of earrings -- one round black and white striped and one white egg-shaped. She also picked up five red and white dominos in the hopes of turning them into jewelry. She found five of the six' double tiles (the double-three was missing in action) in a jumble box.

Last week, Valerie bought two huge buttons and spray-painted them fire-engine red for us to wear to the Patrick Kelly show in Philadelphia. Jean couldn't resist these two carved Bakelite buttons for the bargain basement price of two for $7. The smaller one, with an almost pearlized tortoise tint, is larger than a quarter and the larger solid black one is bigger than a silver dollar. Who knows where they will end up next?

This resin upside-down ice cream cone-shaped pendant was another irresistible find. The orb is the size of a ping-pong ball and, luckily, is not as heavy as it looks.  (And so what if it was?  It would be well worth the sacrifice.)

Valerie went back on Sunday, and ran into Julius again.  As a bonus, she also ran into Sandy Long.  Sandy and Julius did that "don't I know you?" thing that we all do sometimes.  We met both Sandy and Julius several years ago on separate occasions because we were drawn to what they were wearing.

We were both drawn to a pair of art deco period etageres, one of which is shown here.  We considered buying one each, but logistics were against us.  (Getting a taxi, getting them TO the taxi, getting them FROM the taxi, where to put them in the house…  And they were quite heavy, and you know we have no upper body strength...)

Valerie fell in love with this little girl's robe with puppies reading and listening to music, and singing.  You can see at the collar and cuffs that the material is reversible.  Hard to believe this dates back to around 1930-1940, making it at least seventy years old!

Not all of the items were that old, however.  Don't think we didn't consider whether we could make this gigantic Madonna record into a hat.  It must have been close to three feet in diameter.  You can see four separate tracks on it.   Was it a record store prop?  (Only people over 30 know what a record store was.)

If these had been priced for budget-minded ladies, they would have come home with one of us, but they were priced for collectors.  Would have made great earrings, or a great necklace.  Sigh….

We applaud these men for not feeling they had to wear self-effacing shirts.  Bravo, guys!

A fabulous color block purse (from the '80s?) next to (unseen) a selection of three dimensionally decorated swim caps.

And toys!  Love the circa 1960 washing machine (soooo cute, despite being pink, color coded to remind little girls who's supposed to do the laundry), and the mechanical wind-up rotating swing.  (Readers, what is the proper name for this kind of swing, that works on the principle of -- is it centrifugal force???)

Ah, the flea market.  Baby, wasn't it grand?!

What we're wearing:
Jean is wearing an Ignatius hat; H& M tunic; Lilith skirt; vintage Bakelite bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings; black suede platform Korkease sandals; red leather cross-body bag.

Valerie is wearing a Kokin hat, plastic target earrings, JPG Jeans dress, foam rubber bracelets, H&M cotton pocketbook, faceted horn ring, shoes by Nicole.


  1. I wish I would have visited that Market on one of my NYC trips! Glad you were able to make a farewell visit and scoop up some cool stuff (the newsprint outfit is VERY cool). Lulu looks fab, as always, and the patterns on the shirts those two guys are wearing are just brilliant.

    I had a little baby grand piano when I was a kid and taught myself to play a few songs by ear. I would have probably had to buy the black one just for the memories.

  2. Let me first say that you are both looking marvelous!! Very svelte and fab. It's always sad to say goodbye to an institution of that calibre. It sounds like one of my dreams, literally. I frequently dream about discovering old gems in unlikely places! Glad you could go and run into some members of your/our tribe! XXOO