In 'The Curious Shopper's Guide to New York City,' author Pamela Keech scours the best flea markets, from major antiques centers to informal street bazaars. Read an excerpt
24th and 25th Sts. from Fifth to Seventh aves.
Every Saturday and Sunday, West 25th Street between Fifth and Seventh avenues in Chelsea becomes a sprawling market of antiques and collectibles. Itinerant dealers take over a parking lot and a two-story parking garage, complementing permanent antiques shops and cooperatives in the immediate neighborhood.
For almost thirty years the Annex Flea Market would set up shop in the large lot on the east side of Avenue of the Americas between 25th and 26th Streets. In the summer of 2005 the Annex was displaced by real estate development, but it has since begun to reappear in the parking lot at the corner of West 17th Street and Avenue of the Americas, and on the entire block of West 39th Street between Ninth and Tenth avenues.
The Antiques Garage
112 W. 25th St. (Ave. of the Americas/Seventh Ave.)
Sat. and Sun. 6:30 A.M.-5 P.M.; closed Mon.-Fri.
What to look for: general flea-market merchandise; advertising, prints, photographs, vintage clothing
Every weekend this parking garage becomes a flea market frequented by browsers, collectors, decorators, celebrities, antiques dealers, and bargain hunters. This is the place to search for paintings and prints, vintage clothing and jewelry, linens, toys, furniture from many periods, rare books and records, early-twentieth-century glassware and pottery, and New York memorabilia--advertising and ephemera from city businesses, vintage souvenirs, and old photographs of everything from skinny kids playing on stoops to smiling prostitutes wearing camisoles and little else. Bargaining is routine, but don't expect the dealer to take more than 25 percent off the asking price. "What is your best price?" is a polite way to begin negotiations.
Showplace Antiques Center
40 W. 25th St. (Fifth Ave./Ave. of the Americas)
Mon.-Fri. 10 A.M.-6 P.M.; Sat. and Sun. 8:30 A.M.-5:30 P.M.
What to look for: Judaica, estate jewelry, pottery
The spacious four-story Showplace has more than one hundred permanent booths, each rented by an independent dealer. Most are open on weekends only, but a new resource, the Showplace on Three, has styled room settings that are open every day with a full staff to answer questions and offer decorating suggestions. The galleries on other floors have high-quality, interesting antiques and collectibles, including Scandinavian and British art pottery, prints and paintings, antique Judaica, Russian icons and silver, Art Deco furniture and accessories, bronze statues, porcelain figurines, and religious relics. On the first floor, Gallery 41 has old dolls, amateur oil paintings, and nifty vintage sewing items--buttons, fabrics, patterns, notions, pincushions, and unusual tape measures. There is a repair service for silver and other metal objects near the information booth. A cafe on the lower level is open on weekends and serves sandwiches, sweets, coffee, tea, and soft drinks.
Grand Bazaar Flea Market
W. 25th St. (Fifth Ave./Ave. of the Americas)
Sat. and Sun. 6 A.M.-6 P.M.; closed Mon.-Fri.
What to look for: treasures at bargain prices
Open all year round, the Bazaar features eclectic dealers who sell both treasures and trash. Some dealers trade in ethnic items, particularly from Africa and the Middle East, including pottery, statues, textiles, beads, baskets, drums, and small pieces of furniture. Most dealers sell the endless array of flea-market wares. DIY star designers such as Doug Wilson are sometimes seen poking around. There's always a chance of finding something truly special, like an eleven-foot-long Gothic church pew or a passable copy of a Baroque painting.
Antique Collections Inc.
28 W. 25th St. (Fifth Ave./Ave. of the Americas)
Mon., Thurs., Fri. 11 A.M.-6 P.M.; Sat. and Sun. 8:30 A.M.-5:30 P.M.; Tues. and Wed. by appointment
What to look for: a variety of antiques
A few doors east of the Showplace, a distinctive indoor cooperative sits on the site of the former home of Lucretia Jones and her daughter Edith Jones Wharton, who lived there from 1882 until her marriage in 1885. Today, antique clothing, textiles, jewelry, and old clocks ticking away in a back corner recall the Gilded Age that Wharton chronicled, and more than one dealer claims to regularly see a ghost that might be her. To the right of the entrance, William Pass sells couture period clothing of the highest quality at very fair prices. Next to him, Jerome Wilson, Inc., offers pristine Victorian and Edwardian linens, lingerie, and gowns. At the rear, Master Clock restores clocks and watches. Midway on the east side, Illisa Lingerie shows early-twentieth-century lingerie and presents, in a glass case, an informal history of the brassiere.