Under the Bridge Antique & Vintage Flea Market
Swing Park will become a market for vintage apparel and more this Sunday.
Another autumn begins, and a crisp September wind blusters through the colorful tapestry of sightseers meandering down Milwaukee’s Historic Brady Street; a finely sewn quilt of eclectic coffeehouses, lively sports bars, ethnic restaurants, and curio shops. The street’s patrons are extraordinarily diverse; a throng of beerbellied college students glued to a football game wolfing down burgers among elderly couples window-shopping hand in hand. Mustached tattoo artists perch on the stoops of their parlors, laughing and chain-smoking as children, each with a sugary Peter Sciortino’s Bakery doughnut in hand, stroll by. There are packs of Neo-rockabillies, garbed in faded denim jackets and heavy red lipstick walking with their half-drunk cups of pumpkin spiced coffees while a man swathed in tie-die, hocks his collection of hemp products, a relic of the street’s Bohemian past.
Brady Street has long since been a hub of art, music, fashion, and culture; but just as the season’s change, the street has transformed and adapted many times throughout the years. A large part of the street’s whimsical charm has always been its unique antique and vintage clothiers. Recently however, many of these shops have fallen victim to the economic downturn and online shopping craze which have left the street’s retailers a skeleton of its former self. Among the closed shops are Yellow Jacket Vintage, Aala Reed Men’s Clothier, Vieux et Nouveau, and Miss Groove.
On Sunday, September 21 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. a collection of Milwaukee-based antique collectors, treasure finders and vintage sellers known as “Urban Flea” will once again assemble for the second annual “Under the Bridge Antique & Vintage Flea Market”, a way to fill the void in Brady’s antique and fashion market. The market will be located under the Holton St. Viaduct just northeast of the intersection of Brady and Water streets, directly across from Trocadero Gastrobar. The site is more famously known as the “Swing Park,” created by a group of Milwaukee artists and activists in 2012.
“When I was in 9th grade I came to Brady Street and bought my 9th grade dance dress at Orchid Annie’s, that’s when it was in the Waterford Wine space. I remember back then, Brady Street had so many vintage stores and head shops, and now there are only a small handful of us left, it feels like the internet is taking over,” reflects MaryBeth Kressin, manager of Dragonfly Vintage Goods.
Kressin is a third of “Urban Flea,” the trio of creatives hosting the event under the bridge. She describes herself as a jack of all trades; bar tending, online vintage selling, estate organizing, and recently establishing a vintage rental business. She is joined by the owner of Dragonfly on Brady and longtime lover of vintage, Annette French. French moved her vintage clothing and antique shop from Massachusetts to Wisconsin over a decade ago. The brainchild of the event is Bryce Clark, owner of Cempazuchi and avid antique collector, he hopes the event will bring life to an otherwise underused space.
“We all came from collecting, flea marketing and resale backgrounds, and what we’ve noticed is that there aren’t a lot of really good urban antique, vintage fairs, or rummage sales going on in the city. We thought it would be fun to utilize spaces in the Milwaukee and turn them into events and flea markets,” says Bryce.
“It’s nice to have this physical place, it’s a social event. You can touch the items and see them. Don’t get me wrong I love Etsy (an online retailer), I love that there is that marketplace out there. But it’s also nice to look at something face to face opposed to sitting on a computer and bidding on something,” says Kressin.
The second annual Under the Bridge Antique & Vintage Flea Market will feature over 20 different vintage and antiquity venders from local dealers and pop-up shops like Bolted Vintage, BrownCowVintageLLC, Luna and Fog Vintage, Xotique, Le Mollusque, Not Your Grandma’s House, Hob & Nail, Once Mine, Now Yours, Dragonfly, Vintage Potpie, Purple Velvet Vintage, Zoe Lu Boutique, Funque Monkey, Curio Culture, Ginger & Judy, Ollypie Vintage. Live music stylings will commence halfway through the day from Madison/Minnesota based musicians Blake Thomas and Josh Harty, with a DJ spinning tunes throughout the day as shoppers weave through the piles of vintage merchandise.
As another chilly Wisconsin winter draws near, and visitors continue flock to Brady Street, the Under the Bridge Antique & Vintage Flea Market serves as a way to both rekindle Brady’s vintage and antique past and bring the community together. Both Clark and Kressin talk about the many connections they have made with customers at last summer’s Under the Bridge outdoor market.
“I have an old deck of Chippendales playing cards. And this woman came up and said; hey that’s my uncle on there! I didn’t believe her until her mom came up and said it was her brother,” Kressin laughs.
Kressin, along with Clark and French, hope to continue their outdoor flea markets into the fall and winter. Their hope is to explore new areas of the city and bring their wares to new audiences, undoubtedly hearing plenty of stories along the way.
“These are interactions you would never have on the internet,” notes Clark.