Hastings Entrepreneur Finds Success in Monthly Flea Markets

Hastings Flea founder Ilana Arazie on starting and expanding her flea market enterprise.

Walk around under the bridge of the Chappaqua train station on the third Saturday of the month, and you’ll find craft, furniture, jewelry, and antique vendors showcasing their wares. Known as the Chappaqua Flea, it’s the “idea that kicked” conceived by Ilana Arazie, who first brought this bit of Brooklyn to our suburbs last year when she launched her first flea market, the Hastings Flea. Arazie’s idea has filled a void (Westchester residents who are New York City transplants know that a good flea market can be hard to find here in the ’burbs) and is growing as a viable business.

“I had recently moved here [Hastings-on-Hudson], and I wanted to do something that kept me connected to my area and town. I was brainstorming things with my friend, Michelle DeForest, who also founded the Flea with me, and we thought this would be a great thing to bring to Westchester and our town,” Arazie says of her decision to launch in Hastings.

To pursue their initial idea, Arazie and DeForest first got permission from the town; with only minor startup costs, thanks to the money brought in from vendors, Arazie says there wasn’t much to invest in initially. With a background in digital and freelance marketing, she knew that the best route for marketing the fledgling Hastings Flea was social media and local press.

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“We created our website ourselves,” she says. “I didn’t pay for advertising but I was able to do a lot on Facebook and through word of mouth. Things get around in the town, and I put up as many signs as possible.”

The Hastings Flea experienced a successful first season, from April to November of 2014, says Arazie, who notes positive customer feedback and encouragement from the vendors and community continue to grow. This prompted Arazie to expand to Chappaqua for this season.

“In Chappaqua, I teamed up with the Farmer’s Market and Art Under the Bridge. Chappaqua is really trying to develop their downtown and community, so it was good timing,” Arazie says.

So what can visitors to Arazie’s markets expect? In Chappaqua and Hastings, the Flea is comprised of a unique array of vendors who sell hand-picked items “you can’t find anywhere else,” she says. Some of the Flea’s vendors—who apply online to be a part of the event—are regulars, while others move in and out and between Hastings and Chappaqua. The lineup of vendors includes home goods collectors; antique collectors with mid-century modern furniture; vintage clothing collectors from the 1970s and 1980s; and others who bring beaded and stone jewelry, crafts for kids, vintage comics and posters, all-natural handmade soaps and lotions, and even collectibles from Asia and Africa to the Flea.

At the Hastings Flea, local musicians and kid performers play throughout the event. One group, Solar Punch, powers the performance stage with solar energy and provides educational demonstrations on how to cook with solar energy. One boy, Arazie says, will play chess with community members as they move through the Flea, all while raising money for his charity in the August Flea.

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“The community seems to be enjoying everything our vendors have to offer. And the vendors want to connect with the community,” Arazie says about both markets. “It’s a wonderful event to go to as a family.”

Arazie says although the Chappaqua location was a little bit of trial and error at the start, the town has been great, putting up signs and being open to finding the best place for the Flea. She continues to put a lot of work into the established market in Hastings, and strives to grow the Chappaqua Flea organically, without a big budget, through word of mouth.

“Every month, new people hear about us and come,” she says. “It’s something that grows over time, you stick with, and you look back and see what works and what doesn’t.”

Arazie also says she is open to working with other communities and in other towns in the future, continuing to pursue her love for the event. This may even include finding indoor spaces for winter markets.

“It’s something that feels good at the end of the day, when the vendors finally break down. You feel like you did something nice for the community, and it makes you want to keep going,” she says.

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Visit the Chappaqua Flea next on Saturday, August 15 at 9am; the Hastings Flea’s next date is Saturday, August 9, at 10am in the MTA commuter parking lot. Visit www.chappaquaflea.com and www.hastingsflea.com to find out more information about the market and becoming a vendor

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