Never been to the First Friday flea markets in the West Bottoms? It’s not for the weak-hearted.
At the moment, 22 vintage boutiques and flea markets with 600 vendors fill the multistory warehouses. It can be overwhelming.
We asked owners of flea markets, vendors and veteran shoppers for tips on how best to get through a day or — if you’re of hardy, shopaholic stock — and entire weekend of shopping. Here’s what we learned.
Dress for comfort
You’ll be walking between lots of buildings over several square blocks and up and down stairs. Wear comfortable shoes as well as layers of clothing that you can take off and put on as you walk indoors and outdoors.
Especially if you plan to get lunch at a food truck and eat outside.
Arrive early Friday
You’ll find the best selection.
Arrive late Sunday
You might get better prices. Some flea markets and vendors mark their products down toward the end of the weekend.
For bargains, go up
Vendors on the lower floors often pay the highest rent, and therefore have the highest prices. Better bargains can often be found on upper levels.
If you see something you love, snatch it up. It might be gone if you wait.
Especially if you plan to eat at the food trucks.
Ask about haggling
Some vendors do it, some don’t. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Try to learn the value of items you’ll be hunting for ahead of time, so you know if they’re priced right when you see them.
Carry a smartphone
You can look up prices while shopping.
Bring measurements and a tape measure
For obvious reasons.
Bring paint and fabric swatches
They’ll help you determine if potential purchases will match your current decor.
Bring a pen and pad
Write warehouse names and vendor locations where potential purchases are located.
Plan for several visits
Visit just three or four flea market/warehouses in a day. Not only will you save yourself exhaustion, you’ll be better able to remember who sells what kind of merchandise.
Arrange pick up
If you buy a large piece of furniture that won’t fit in your vehicle, ask to arrange a time later in the week to pick it up when you’ve secured a larger vehicle. Or ask the staff if they know someone who’ll deliver for a fee.
Do reconnaissance work
Most West Bottom flea markets have a website or Facebook page with photos of merchandise for the upcoming sale. If you see something you like, print the photo, take it with you and ask a staff member where it is when you arrive.
Bring a folding cart
It’ll keep your hands free and your purchases bundled.
Vendors often hang clever decorating ideas and merchandise from the ceilings. Bedsprings woven with grapevines and string lights, anyone?
Take pictures of beautiful vignettes that you can replicate at home.