Along the serene Hudson River every other Sunday in the summer months, Riverfront Park is transformed into a Brooklyn-esque flea market, populated with vibrant vendors, delicious food, and live music–not to mention a poet with a typewriter, ready to write an original poem about you on the spot. People flood the walkways of the park, some with children or dog leashes in hand, and others alone, mingling with vendor owners and fellow visitors along the way. For many, the market is a highly anticipated event, as they approach each vendor with a product and price in mind. Others, though, curiously peek into the vendors as they stroll along the market for the first time, taking in the greenery and quaint view of the water.
The Troy Flea Market has expanded both in size and vision since its previous director, Jessica McEnaney, opened it in 2015. It was an instant hit, earning the title of “Best Flea Market” in Metroland’s 2015 “Best Of” issue. When McEnaney moved out of Troy and could not find someone to take over, the fate of the market looked dim. That is, until Kristin Jackson stepped in.
“When I found out no one was willing to take over the job, a friend of mine encouraged me to do it,” Jackson, 35, told The Alt. “It was the perfect opportunity for me to use my networking skills, after previously working at music festivals, and I thought it would be a cool way to be a part of the city.”
Jackson has lived in Troy for 10 years, falling in love with its “vibe.” Along with being the director of the flea, she is a server at The Shop, a restaurant in downtown Troy, and a full-time mom. The flea is not only her own way of giving back to the city, but an outlet for business owners, Troy residents, and visitors of the city to come together in a creative space.
Vendors are selected based on their quality and authenticity. Jackson typically looks for vendors that sell specialty handmade or vintage items. The question of what people can find when they wander into the market is limitless.
“Our vintage vendors have a lot of cool stuff,” Jackson said. “The vinyl selection has some great old records and many of the vendors, like North Country Classics, sell beautiful vintage clothing. On the craft side, the items are really unique. There are essential oils, handmade jewelry, and lots of candles.”
Jackson credits simple word of mouth for the market’s growing popularity, especially in gaining vendors. Amy DiLalla, owner of The Peach Tree, was inspired to join Troy Flea by a friend. “A maker friend of mine raved about the energy of the market as well as its professional organization,” DiLalla said. “I reached out to the organizer in 2015 and the rest is waterfront history.”
DiLalla began her small business in 2008 as a New Year’s resolution to “learn something new” and intertwined her interest in geology and gemstones into jewelry making. She makes her natural gemstone and freshwater pearl jewelry out of her home studio in the Hudson Valley.
“The goal of my work is to provide simple, true to the earth beauty for people to wear and benefit from the gemstone’s properties,” DiLalla told The Alt. “With low use of metal, I allow the stones to speak for themselves. Additionally, I seek out and showcase those lesser known and uniquely cut pieces.”
Natural and earth-based products are a common theme among the market’s vendors. Many of these small business owners, such as Christina Ransbury, are shining a light on sustainability and reusing, rather than wasting, what we have.
Ransbury lived off the grid in Hawaii for five years, learning how to fully utilize the land and its resources. When she returned, she brought her design skills and environmental values with her to start her small business Anasari Design, which sits among the vendors at Troy Flea. Her clothing is not only handmade, but is designed with either organic fibers or dyes, or with textiles that would otherwise go into landfills. She is working to make a change in the fashion industry, which has become the second largest polluter in the world contributing to global warming. “I’m working toward creating a 100 percent compostable clothing alternative,” Ransbury told The Alt.
While there are over two dozen vendors, it is not the quantity that draws people but the quality, as each product has its own story. The market is cluttered with beautiful antiques that are full of history, hand-selected with care by vendor owners, such as Gregory Skibitsky.
Skibitsky, along with his partner Carol Mahoney, started buying antiques at auctions and eventually decided to share their treasures, bringing their business WindWhistleHill to the flea last year. People can find cookware, lighters, décor, furniture, and other collectibles nestled in their vendor. The items are not only affordable but hold a rich history and one-of-a-kind quality that surpasses any modern day appliance.
“I started to collect baseball cards when I was four. We took family rides in the country and always stopped at antique shops. It is just in my blood,” Skibitsky said.
Amidst this shopping selection is a variety of food and music. People can choose to enjoy some quesadillas from Muddaddy Flats, specialty fries, and nachos from Given to Fry, or some delicious veggie patties from Merv’s Meatless food stand. Jackson recently added a new seating area overlooking the water, so people can relax and eat while listening to the live music, which ranges from local rock bands to acoustic solo vocalists.
Shoppers can also take a break from the music and vendors by sitting down with Meghan Marohn and her typewriter. Marohn’s craft, known as the Troy Poem Project, gives people the opportunity to approach her stand and freely talk to her about anything on their mind – whether it’s a person, a feeling, an experience, or merely a question about life. She then uses this brief conversation to write and deliver them a beautiful poem at no set price, allowing patrons to pay her whatever amount they are willing and able to.
This picturesque array of art and entertainment brings a range of people of all ages. Jackson enjoys the mix of shoppers, but is most surprised by what they buy at the market. “What I love to see is someone [who] I wouldn’t expect buy a cool vintage item, like when a teenage girl walks out with a crazy dress from the 60s. It’s pretty amazing to see.”
For residents of Troy, though, the market is more than just a shopping expedition. “It brings a sense of community,” Jackson said. “It gives people a place to go, while giving them the chance to see what’s going on in the city.” On the business and creative side, the market is also an outlet for people to get their products out there and receive some cost-effective feedback.
Although Troy Flea has garnered, respectfully, the largest following, there are other local flea markets that vendor owners can utilize, such as Markets at Round Lake. Located about a half hour from Schenectady, Markets at Round Lake features vendors selling handmade goods, food, and used and rare books. Farmers markets, though, are more abundant in the Capital Region and include favorites like the Schenectady Greenmarket, Upper Union Street Farmers Market, and the Saratoga Farmers Market.
Amidst this competition, Jackson plans to continue expanding Troy Flea by adding more vendors and spreading the word so it becomes a well-known event even to those who live outside of Troy. Her big dream, though, is for it to become an open-air market, “like the ones you see in Seattle,” she said. “I want to make it year-round, where vendors can always have a space to sell their items. My goal is for the market to take over the entire park and become a destination that people travel to from other counties and states.”
Next Troy Flea: Sunday, August 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Riverfront Park, Troy.