WHEN the owners of New York City's popular Brooklyn Flea opened a similar, weekly market in Philadelphia in June, it promised to be a hipster heaven.
But Brooklyn Flea Philly didn't draw the crowds the New York market did, prompting the out-of-town owners to bail on Philly. Some blamed the location, the Piazza at Schmidts in Northern Liberties. Others said sleepy Sundays weren't the best shopping day. And some saw the market, which kept "Brooklyn" in its name, as a Philly snub.
But Mark Vevle never viewed the short-lived market as a failure.
Instead, the Philly-based visionary mulled what worked and what didn't - and decided to open his own flea market here. The Franklin Flea will open today in Center City. The market will run 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday through Christmas in the first floor of the old Strawbridge's department store at 8th and Market streets.
"I feel like there's still a lot of potential here," said Vevle, who managed Brooklyn Flea Philly. "It's just going to be a slower, longer-term gain to build this."
The new market will borrow the flavor of the old: It'll focus on high-end antiques, vintage goods and collectibles, with a few upstart gourmet food vendors. Vevle expects more than 40 vendors to participate weekly.
The vendors were vigorously vetted; Vevle approved just a quarter of those who applied for booths in the 25,000-square-foot space.
East Market Street for years has been among Center City's shabbiest stretches. But Vevle liked the old Strawbridge's building because of its history and grandeur; it still has the high ceilings, brass chandeliers, support columns and marble floors that classed up the place when Strawbridge's was open.
Besides, "I'm an urban person, and I see a lot of potential in gritty urban spaces, more so than most people," Vevle said. "There really is no street-level retail along that stretch, so it is kind of no-man's land. But I spent some time there and just kind of fell in love with it, and what a diverse group of people - with commuter traffic and locals - move through there."
In April, Vevle aims to move the Franklin Flea outdoors, although he hasn't settled on a spot yet.
A Minneapolis native who has lived in New York, Los Angeles and North Carolina, Vevle, 37, moved to Philly three years ago and now lives in Society Hill.
The Franklin Flea is the first project for Fluxus, a company he created to put on public events such as food festivals, public art installations and markets.