Saturday afternoon I found myself all by myself. My daughter was at her dad’s, my man was at work. If you have kids, you know how precious those times are when you get to do something that is exactly what you want to do and not what anyone else wants to do. So I went to the Cleveland Flea and then I went to the West Side Market. If you’re from Cleveland and you’re reading this chances are VERY good that you’ve either already been to the West Side Market or know that you should have gone years ago. The Cleveland Flea is also very cool but not as iconic Cleveland as the West Side Market.
I said in the title that I’d share some thoughts on hipsters and the first such thought is that it was probably a hipster who decided that taking the word “market” off the title of the Cleveland Flea would make it cooler. And I gotta say that it is, in fact, cooler. It’s located in this nearly forgotten industrial, concrete piazza. If the word piazza brings to mind beautiful plazas surrounded by historical buildings in Italy then you’ve got it… except without the beautiful or the Italy. I’m not saying that it’s ugly, I’m simply trying to communicate that it is very industrial but really cool. See for yourself.
I should probably tell you now that the Cleveland Flea is not always here but I gather this is the usual spot and both times I’ve gone it’s been here. They do have a great website loaded with useful information if you decide you want to go (here it is).
What I really like about the Cleveland Flea is that it gives local small business owners the opportunity to pursue their passions. I mentioned Bearded Buch and Fresh Fork Market in an earlier post; both can be found here. I bought homemade laundry detergent at a stall (Brighton Wool and Honey) where one woman was selling honey and detergent and another woman was selling alpaca yarn from her own alpacas. There are more food carts than you might think, drinks every few feet, artists, jewelry, clothes, and… of course… old junk. Another thought on hipsters (yes, I know I’m generalizing just a smidge here) because they like cool old stuff, cool old stuff is now being sold for A LOT of money. I’m talking old wooden milk crate for $47!!!!!! So if you’re looking for the kind of flea market where you can find a milk crate for $1, this is not the place for you. Those who run the Flea are also dedicated to bringing people to “lesser-known neighborhoods” in Cleveland.
Back to these small businesses. I’m going to focus on one before moving on.
The first time I came to the Cleveland Flea, with my mom, we stopped at a booth with beautiful copper jewelry and started talking to the artist about her path to full time creating. Jessica Kayse turned out to be a great person to strike up a conversation with because she’s cool as hell. She’s so cool that my daughter and I had coffee with her a few weeks later and she gave me some sound advice on the business of handmade goods (I crochet things and sell them by the way) and told me about a lot of people and businesses who are doing good work through art. Her business is called Souls Repurpose and as of several months ago it is her full time job. If you would like a more personal introduction you can see her on Fox 8 news. I love that the Cleveland Flea gives people like Jessica the opportunity to make a career out of her art.
I’ll probably mention Jessica again at some point because I find her inspirational and am impressed by how open she is to mentoring others.
From there I drove through Cleveland, across the imposing Hope Memorial Bridge on Carnegie to the historic West Side Market.
The West Side Market opened in 1912 and has served as a market ever since. Imagine an open air market with fruit and vegetables piled high, every cheese you could possibly imagine, more languages flying around than probably anywhere else in Cleveland, and meat for days and you’ll have an idea of what it’s like to be at the West Side Market. The last time I was there I saw a young lady carrying half a goat on her shoulder through the press of people to a butcher. There are people from every walk of life in this market; rich/poor, black/white, Eastern European/Middle Eastern, young/old… you get the point. I love it here and so would my Chicago/Germany friend Alex (not to be confused with Chicago boyfriend Alex). And I love the chorizo that Alex (boyfriend, not German friend) made me for breakfast this morning which I bought from The Pork Chop Shop. You know how I was talking about the Cleveland Flea benefiting small businesses? The West Side Market does as well. The Pork Chop Shop is owned by two women in their 20s (I think that’s cool, thus the otherwise irrelevant mention), Emma Beno is a butcher who basically grew up in the market, and Alexia Rodriguez is a chef (who once worked for Johnny Mango – my personal favorite restaurant in the area). They source all their pork from local farmers and make all the rubs/seasonings in house (which means when I ask if their chorizo is gluten free and the butcher tells me it is, I know she knows what she’s talking about). I love sausage, a lot. There are no jokes you can make about that that I haven’t already heard. My coworkers are particularly fond of cracking sausage jokes. But seriously, I was a vegetarian for a year or so a loooong time ago and I would occasionally cheat, but only for sausage. (All information on The Pork Chop Shop owners came from their website. Other than asking Emma about gluten free stuff and buying deliciousness, I don’t know either of them at all.)
My other thoughts on hipsters will have to wait for another post but they involve urban revitalization and gentrification.