How did the market start? Why? Tell us the story
I had a party planning business and I decorated elaborate parties with themes like speakeasies and fifties, using real period pieces from antique markets. I had to travel way outside the city of Chicago to find these types of markets and thought it was time the City of Chicago had its own urban antique market. I approached the West Loop Organization, where the original market neighborhood was -- similar to Portobello Road in London -- and then went to the City's marketing chief to get the Mayor's endorsement and assistance in getting this off the ground. It started as a Sunday only, 6x a year event. It is now monthly and grows and grows, now not just including antiques but also designer goods and housewares, gourmet foods, live entertainment, big time sponsors.
Tell us how the market works?
I call it the Market of markets because there are different product groupings, themselves markets. We are in the historic Fulton Market District and it's where the labor movement and the haymarket riots took place. The event is in the Plumbers Union Hall, a giant compound that is about a city block, with a big 1927 building with terrazzo floors, ornate iron work and a wonderful ballroom where all the big political events in Chicago's 20th century history of labor took place. There are vendors everywhere, inside and outside. The outside lends itself to the big semi trucks and fun campers and the sellers who are equipped to be outdoors. The inside caters more to the vendors who have more fragile goods like textiles, art and paper products. Also we have the air conditioning cranked inside and the outside is anything goes. We have live entertainment inside and outside, dj's, drag queens, live jazz, and lots of booze. What makes it so great is that being in Chicago we get these vendors who criss cross the country so there are always new and exciting merchandise and sellers from as far away as Texas, CA, NY, Florida etc etc, great variety of product and sellers. We have onsite delivery service and a free trolley running from Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue during the May-September months.
How do you pick the vendors, does it depend upon the time of year?
The vendors thank god come to us! Friends of the vendors that get recommended get in touch and we sift through. Occasionally I'll find someone who is so special and I sell them on coming in. We turn away 4 out of every 5 applications that come through so we don't have too much of any one thing. I say it's like a party where you do a seating chart, as it's critical to the vibe of the event to have the right vendors together and keeping others apart.
What special events do you hold to keep customers coming back?
We try to theme all the months so that we focus on something seasonal that will bring them in. A different type of alcohol or food group, a garden party in May, our holiday markets in November and December are huge hits. We go hot hot hot for our Winter markets to get everyone in the mood to be social and shop.
What can we expect to see at the market?
You can expect to see new trends in design and display, taste new tastes, see a beautiful blending of vintage and modern. Beautiful people and merchandise. A real scene, a "mecca of cool people" as Chicago Sun-Times says.