Words and Photos By Laura Jasmine
Even the heavy rain did not stop people from attending the annual Punk Ottawa Flea Market on Sept. 17 at the Bronson Centre. Over 30 local vendors were in attendance this year.
One of the organizers, Christopher Feeney, said the event is gaining more and more interest from both vendors and spectators, with over 700 people walking through the doors that day.
The flea market was initially started seven years ago when the organizers noticed similar events happening in other scenes and other cities.
“Philadelphia in particular has a punk rock flea market that goes over two days and thousands of people go through it,” Feeney said. “It’s like ours where a mix of people are selling their records, clothing, art, and it’s just so wild there, so we thought Ottawa needs something like that.”
Ottawa has some smaller flea markets and maker’s markets that have sprung up since then, but the Punk Ottawa Flea Market aims to bring together everybody in one space from alternative cultures to hang out, make friends, and to buy and sell new and used items. Half of the vendors are craft vendors that go to different markets and events, and the other half regular Janes and Joes selling vintage clothing or records.
Feeney said he does a little bit of vetting of the interested sellers to make sure both vendors and shoppers get their money’s worth.
“At this point we are known enough that we don’t have to chase too many vendors. We always fill up and have a small waiting list before the event,” he said. “Roughly half of them have attended previous years and the other half are brand new. This year we ran out of space and had to get creative to make sure everyone fit.”
The flea market has always been held at the Bronson Centre and the organizers are hoping to keep the flea market there, even though attendance is increasing.
“They have groups here from all over the spectrum you can imagine and we really like the space,” Feeney said. “Most of the proceeds the venue makes through rental and table fees are being put right back to other non-profits like the women’s shelter, and they also have a food bank here.”
Feeney feels everyone has grown closer throughout the years and the event has a family reunion feel to it.
“I love seeing how much the flea market has grown. People bring their kids, grandkids, their parents and grandparents. For the first time this year we also had a small kids craft station,” he said.
“We want everybody to come out and walk away happy.”
First-time vendor Mike Raymond, the owner of Noisy Kitchen Hot Sauce, has attended only as a shopper for the few previous years.
“This event always has a great crowd and good times, and this year I actually had something to offer as a vendor so I signed up,” Raymond said. “I’m promoting my recording studio, Darkside Productions, which is my main business, but a few months ago I started making my own jalapeno and habanero hot sauces, so I thought I should sell some here. “
Robin Dostaler from Shameless Envy has had her business for 16 years and she has attended the flea market every year since it started.
What initially started as her costume and corsetry business changed when she was hit by a drunk driver and had hard time sewing after the recovery. Steampunk had become very popular at that time and she decided to try her hand on something different.
Dostaler’s ethically sourced skull, bone, and bee art, along with jewellery and head pieces to attract buyers from all walks of life. She donates a portion of her bee art proceeds to the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association.
“I do lots of smaller seasonal events, craft fairs, and some bigger events like the Geek Market and ComicCon, but this event seems to have a different feel. ” Dostaler said. “There is such a variety of different people, and even though this is quoted as a flea market, people are also selling some higher end priced pieces and new products, which is interesting to see.”
Dostaler said she keeps coming back to the event for its close community feel.
“The organizers are amazing, and even though we come here year after year, we always seem to have a lot of catching up to do,” she said. “This is a very inviting event with a calm and relaxed atmosphere, people take their time browsing. It has a nice family feel to it!” •