Inaugural Baltimore Big Flea draws the crowds

TIMONIUM, Md. – More than 8,500 show-goers attended opening day of the Baltimore Big Flea – D’Amore Promotions’ newest venture – and business was brisk.

The Baltimore Sun called the event a “new kind of flea market” – where fine antiques meet moderately priced collectibles. The aisles of both the Exhibition Hall and the Cow Palace at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium were filled with shoppers looking for great buys and they found them.

“This is terrific for the area,” enthused Meredith Barney who sold vintage costume jewelry. “This show brought in the draw.”

D’Amore Promotions also hold Big Flea shows in Washington, D.C., and Fredericksburg, Va. “Show promoters must adjust to the economy,” observes Joan Sides, founder. “It’s no longer a case of doing the same thing over and over again in the same way. Booth fees, promotion, pricing – all must be responsive to the times.”

“Many shows closed in this area,” commented Howard Roberts of White Orchid Antiques. “This has led the way for a new show, with a fresh approach, to fill the void.”

For White Orchid, furniture began to pick up. “People are interested in buying the unusual piece as an accent rather than investing in major groupings. We are selling more tables without chairs, for example, than with them. “Something different sells,” he added, pointing to a 19th century bench table with a top that flipped up to show intricate interior carving. “This piece sold quickly.”

For Barbara Sims, a local Baltimore dealer, decorative items sold well, with four major pieces snapped up the first hour, including a huge cloisonné vase for $800. “We had a wonderful show here in Baltimore,” she said. Sims concurred that there is more movement at the retail level, with consumers more confident and interested in buying.

Other dealers had similar successes. “I saw people whom I haven’t seen in 10 years,” Chuck Johnson of Emma’s General Store reported. Johnson, who does pre-show marketing online, points out that even when the Dow was down, he did well. What sold well for Johnson? “Everything and anything.” Johnson’s merchandise includes fixtures from the old general store his family purchased and now runs in West Virginia. The early store counters that he brought to the Baltimore Big Flea were gone the first day, as were the whimsical giant-sized figures that originally came from Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Baltimore.

Silver specialist, Jim Seymour, reported brisk sales in sterling silver sets, which were specially priced for the show at $1,000 each. “The consumer is beginning to recover their interest in entertaining and looking to do it in style.” He also contributed good sales to the fact that silver is rising in the market, with silver prices three times higher than they were 10 years ago. “Right now is the time to buy, before silver really takes off.”

“The consumer is less frightened of spending,” notes Eileen Zeitz who experienced good sales in both estate and costume jewelry. Her most impressive sale was a $4,500 diamond wedding ring purchased by a beaming fiancé for his bride-to-be.

D’Amore Promotions will hold next year’s Baltimore Big Flea in October 2010.


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