The Tampa Indie Flea on Franklin Street has become a local shopping institution in its seven months of operation and will continue during the summer, when several other independent retail markets go on hiatus till the fall.
Set up the third Sunday of each month on the outskirts of downtown Tampa, the flea is family- and pet-friendly. Vendors fill the historic Mediterranean Revival Rialto Theatre — a rental/performance space that conjures the Roaring '20s Tampa of Burgert Brothers photos.
Old-fashioned craftsmanship with youthful irreverence and a savvy sense of style and humor is on display at the Tampa Indie Flea. ChicGeekErin, for instance, provides a great example of old- and new-school sensibilities with an embroidered portrait of Snoop Dogg and needlepoint lifestyle messages such as "Netflix and Chill" (chic geekerin.com).
Tampa Indie Flea founders and organizers Rosey Williams and Seanissey Loughlin curate for balance and variety, rotating members out each month to give as many start-ups and experienced merchants as possible an opportunity to participate.
What do they enjoy most? Helping others live the dream of breaking out of career ruts. "We've enjoyed fostering an interest in people trying out new things in their own enterprise while coming together with other merchants," Williams said.
Williams and Loughlin crossed paths a few months before setting up their first flea together at the Rialto in November. "We met through supporting each other's projects," Williams said. "Seanissey would come to the St. Pete Indie Market and I participated in one of his pop-up markets at Urban Outfitters with my vintage clothing setup."
The indie-preneurs compared notes about their ventures — Loughlin, a department manager at Urban Outfitters, had recently started UO's event at International Plaza, and Williams had been running the St. Pete Indie Market with success since 2012. Both are 27 and have children. They want to bridge the indie merchant communities of Tampa and St. Pete by co-presenting both the Tampa Indie Flea and St. Pete Indie Market under one umbrella.
They recently participated in the Folklore storytelling event at Tempus Projects gallery in Seminole Heights. Folklore founder Gina Moccio said she reached out to Williams and Loughlin because they have pioneered a "buy local" event trend that had been long overdue in Tampa.
"There's been a big push for local support in Tampa, including for food, music, art and goods, so it's great to have an event that supports all of the above," Moccio said. "There are vendors at Indie Flea in different stages in their maker career. Some makers are very, very close to being able to make the leap of quitting their day job and making their wares full time."
What should we expect at the Sunday Tampa Indie Flea this week?
Vendors on board (so far): Fallow Flora creates sumptuous, aromatic botanical goods made in Florida; City and Forest, a cool vintage jewelry and clothing outlet known for their chokers; Inez and Beryl, a husband-and-wife clothing retailer run by artist Cory Robinson and wife Jenn — they named their vintage pop-up after their grandparents; The Art of Danial Ryan, ironically amusing anthropomorphic prints and T-shirts with a predilection for felines ($20) — see his painted "Cat-settes," too. Speaking of kitties, Black Cat Aesthetics creates darkly humorous and compelling T-shirts.
Great gifts for dads: A variety of printing press merchants offer clever Father's Day cards, and The Hole Donuts will gift a complimentary handmade treat to fathers in attendance. Most of the vendors have fun conversation starters for less than $10.
The heat will be beaten: To allay fears of a sweaty shopping experience, the Flea will corral more merchants indoors this week. Vendors will be hawking inside the Rialto Theatre and in the back corridor of Hidden Springs Brewery, which Williams said will have spruced-up air-conditioning.
Sustenance and hydration: A variety of food trucks and other vendors will sell inexpensive grub and homemade beverages. Participants for June include iced coffee purveyors Commune + Co., the root veggies and marinated meats of Tree Dog Roots & Salsa, the savory pies of Empamamas, the waffle sandwiches and desserts of The Twisted Iron and gourmet grilled cheeses of Riddle on the Griddle.
VIP early-bird special: For a $10 ticket, you get first dibs on the merch and enjoy low traffic by being admitted an hour early.