It only happens once a month: a dream shopping experience (almost) in downtown Tampa. Featuring unique wares and vendors, coffee and ginger beer on tap, and a great community of folks who turn out. And it’s just beginning. In December, Tampa Indie Flea unveiled the second monthly market to a mass of eager shoppers at the Rialto Theatre.
Sponsored by 8-Count Productions, Tampa Indie Flea is a curated market experience offering the best indie design, vintage, art, crafts, & plants from the Bay area. Held at the historic Rialto Theatre in Tampa Heights just blocks north of Downtown, Indie Flea assembles Tampa Bay’s craft culture, giving vendors and the community a chance to come together.
2015 marked the start of the Indie Flea Market with its debut in November and by December word was out. At the second Indie Flea, crowds were bigger and the energy packed a punch. New faces and vendors were mixed with those from the first market, spilling out onto the sidewalk in front of the theater. Outside were food trucks, vintage clothing, handmade jewelry and cold-pressed juice. Hidden Springs Ale Works, located next to the Rialto theater, opened up their brewery space, filling it with vendors and tastings of Hidden Springs offerings.
Parking at the Indie Flea is never boring. The adjacent lots of the theater were packed with cars angled into every opening, many motorists creating parking where there was none. People walked from blocks away and the crowds take over much of the street, creating their own crosswalks since there aren’t any throughout much of the growing Heights.
Inside the theater, white walls frame a high ceiling that lifts your eyes toward the proscenium arch that once encased the theater curtain. Only after you enter do you get a sense of the size of the theater. Exposed, distressed brick surround the market goers; a mix of young and mature, Tampanians dressed not unlike those in the Northwest in plaid patterned shirts, black rimmed glasses, vans sneakers, brown leather boots, and dark wash jeans topped with 5-panel hats. Some pink hair, blue hair, no hair, tattoos and beards galore. But beneath each ready-made hipster template is a person who cares about Tampa and the creative entrepreneurs that call the city home. The crowd moves counterclockwise around the theater and a swirl of smiling faces, and creative vendor set-ups comprises the Indie Flea. From the overheard conversations and greetings, one gets the sense that many in the market already know one another.
The Indie Flea Market is perfect for Tampa’s creative entrepreneurs. Once a month they come together to showcase their wares and connect with a regular customer base. The key to indie Flea’s success thus far is consistency, social media marketing, and word of mouth of regular attendees using it as a meetup for friends and family. Once a month vendors gather together and commit to a day of interaction with customers and vendors alike. Another key to the Indie Flea Market’s success is the variety of vendors. Entering the Rialto, market goers encounter tables showcasing homemade ice cream, miniature potted succulents and micro cacti, thrift-shop apparel, donuts, jarred desserts, and canned goods. Tampanians love hand crafted coffee and there is a flavor for every taste. At least three different coffee vendors are set up throughout the market, offering everything from nitro-tap pressure brewed cold coffee to traditionally brewed pour overs.
January’s Indie Flea crowd was bigger than December’s. It was also more diverse, which is a good sign for the future of the Indie Flea. A widening mix of people filled the theater on Sunday, ranging from tight-black-ripped-jeans uber-hipsters to suburban khaki-wearing dads and office-workers enjoying the last glimmers of their weekend.
What will the future will hold for the Indie Flea? The demand for such an outlet is growing in the Tampa Bay Area and the variety of vendors keep the monthly event fresh and inspiring. If the initial success of the Indie Flea Markets are any sign, it will enjoy a long and fruitful time within this historic space.
Only a day or so after January’s Indie Flea, the Tampa team began curating for the next market on February 21. If you are a creator in the Tampa area and want to show us what you make, for the chance to represent at the Indie Flea, get in touch!
We’ll see you all in February.