After three years of hosting pop-up markets in various locations around the city, Vancouver's Eastside Flea has found a permanent home in a 1920s heritage building on Main Street.
Eastside Flea has always been hyperfocused on showcasing local artisans and retailers through it's carefully curated roster of vendors. The event's co-founder and director Jill Whitford is excited that she will finally have a large, central space to host the monthly market.
Previously, the Eastside Flea was held at locations like the Wise Hall, the Biltmore, on campus at UBC, and at various community events and festivals, but Whitford said their long list of vendors made it difficult to include everyone that wanted to take part.
"There are over 1,000 people on our roster," said Whitford in an interview with the Straight yesterday at the market's new permanent headquarters in the Ellis building at 1024 Main Street, just north of National Avenue. "We needed a permanent space because we always had to turn people away.”
The 8,709-square-foot building was used by Main Street Metal for 80 years until the space was put up for lease in April 2015. Whitford and team had initially looked at the building in June of 2015, but passed on leasing it at the time.
Thankfully, Eastside business owners Ezra Kish and Morgan Ellis (the Cobalt, Boxcar) were in search of a new venture, and when they saw the building in August, they knew it had great potential to be the permanent home of the market. They singed the lease with the intention of making it Eastide Flea's new home.
The building's unique character is largely untouched, as Main Street Metal did little to no renovations over the course of its eight-decade tenancy. Whitford said renovations will range from minor to major, with everything from painting to drywalling to installing new bathrooms and making it wheelchair-accessible on the list of things to do.
The team has been hard at work since they first took posession of the building on January 1, and if all goes well with renovations, Whitford hopes to host the first market on March 19.
"We'll be hosting the market on the third weekend of each month, but it's going to be about getting the community in here for other things too," said Whitford. "I want this to be a space for all the things in Vancouver that don't have a space."
While the building's main floor, mezzanine, and warehouse will be reserved for market space and vendors, the rooms on its upper floor and in its basement will be dedicated to artist studios, which will be rented out through Eastside Flea at very fair rates.
"Vendors will set up their booths for the day and then load out at night," said Whitford. "This allows us to utilize the space for other things during the week." When the market isn't taking place, Whitford hopes to host theatre groups, local music shows, and seminars in the building. She's also planning for summertime events like block parties and food truck festivals, which will utilize the building's convenient access to both Main Street and Station Street.
Eastside Flea is still waiting on a few documents from the City of Vancouver, but Whitford says all correspondence with the city has been positive.
Check out the photos below for a virtual tour of the Ellis building, and stay tuned for a sneak peek at the renovated space in the weeks to come.