Berkeley Flea Market, held in the parking lot of the Ashby BART station every Saturday and Sunday, will temporarily shut down from Feb. 2 to April 6 in order to revamp its business model and better serve the community.
Because of rain this year and the smoke in November, the flea market has experienced a low cash flow. The decision to shut down the market this upcoming February and March was driven by the expectation of rain, according to Andrea Prichett, a board member of Community Services United, a nonprofit organization that oversees the flea market.
“We are discussing the future of the flea market with vendors, BART and the city, and we’re trying to come with a (business) model,” Prichett said.
The market started a GoFundMe campaign in December to gain support from patrons in order to better handle costs. The campaign has raised $2,654 of its $20,000 goal as of press time.
The market’s rent is very expensive, and because of the gentrification in the neighborhood over the years, customers have been moving away, according to Prichett.
“The traditional neighborhood that made the Berkeley Flea Market popular isn’t necessarily living in Berkeley (anymore) and so we have to reach out to new market and new constituencies,” Prichett said.
According to Prichett, there has been a lot of speculation about the market’s possible relocation from its current site, but there are not any firm plans as of yet. Prichett said market officials are scheduling a meeting to work out the details with BART and to revise the business model.
The market may begin experimenting with new ways to reach out and sell items, including exploring the possibility of partnering with farmers to sell produce, according to Prichett.
BART declined to comment on the flea market’s temporary shut down.
Musa Kora, the owner of African Imports and a vendor at the flea market, sells African imports such as drums and baskets. Kora shared his experiences of being a vendor and added how the market connects people both locally and internationally and brings together those of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities.
“It’s a good place to be,” Kora said. “If it’s not raining, we come there; we sell something.”
Josie Ahrens, a campus graduate student studying city planning, said she is sad that the market is closing because she knows it as a staple of South Berkeley and a community gathering space.
“I’ve heard of it many times and I’ve wanted to go,” Ahrens said.
Melissa Silvers, a campus senior studying media studies, said although she is not very familiar with the Berkeley Flea Market, she feels that the market is a space for people to come together to be social in the community.
“I don’t really know who sells things (at the Berkeley Flea Market) and what they need, but I think it’s unfortunate that the rent is too high to sell,” Silvers said.