I moved to Philadelphia in late summer 2004. Karen of Mackey Blue and I made our first pilgrimage to Brimfield the following year. I still remember that trip like it was yesterday. I took the train to Newark where Karen picked me up. Then we began the 4 + hour drive up to central Massachusetts. This year’s trip marks our 8th year. Every year one or two of our girlfriends join us. Every year I keep telling myself that I need to photo document our trips and every year I don’t. Although there have been a few things I just can not pass up taking photos of:
How do you even tell people about Brimfield in a way that truly gives them a sense of the experience? ‘The Show’, as it’s called, runs for about a mile on both sides of Route 20 in central Massachusetts with the dealer fields extending several hundred yards back from either side of the road. All the fields are contiguous so you always have merchandise to look at you stroll along Route 20. According to the Brimfield website, over 6,000 dealers set up shop for each show. The Show is held three times a year: May, July, and September.
As much as I love vintage ‘picking’, I hate haggling with dealers so my tactic is that I always start by asking what their BEST price is. Since I hate haggling, I either take that price or walk away. If I really want something but don’t want to pay the price they’re offering, I send in the heavy hitter … Karen. She’s AMAZING when it comes to negotiating.
I’ve learned my lesson and bought a vintage shopping cart last year. Less trips to the car! I also recommend wearing the most comfortable shoes you own. We typically drive up Thursday, of Brimfield week, getting there for about 3 hours of shopping. We learned our lesson the first year — the dealers really don’t get going until 8 am even though many websites say they open at dawn. But we are parked and eating breakfast at one of the food vendors by 7:30 am. Friday finds us walking and shopping for about 8 hours. Then we have dinner in Sturbridge where we settle in with a few glasses of wine and recount the day’s purchases. On Saturday we tend to do a half day of shopping then head home.
After a long winter of minimal flea markets, we’re itchin’ for Brimfield so we tend to go in May. Dress in layers, if you go in May, as it starts off chilly and warms up. Bring lots of cash and your checkbook. If you buy something big, dealers will let you leave your purchases with them and pick them up at the end of the day. The trouble is remembering where you bought what. This brings up another point. If you see something you like buy it because you may not remember where you found it. And if you like something don’t himm haww too long as it might be gone when you return. I lost out on a full tray of letterpress type for $50 because I walked away then realized what a good deal it was … by the time I walked back, it was gone … of course.
One of my favorite parts of going to The Show is the banter with my girlfriends about what we’re going to buy … creating and discussing our ‘lists’. My ‘list’ has evolved and changed over the years as I finish collecting some things and start collecting others. The first few years, my list included: quilts, cameras, Pyrex, drinking glasses, clocks and so forth. Now that I have more quilts than Mr. Manayunk Mod and I will ever need, they’re off the radar. Now I only look for unique cameras and globes. I found the coolest set of orange Pyrex mixing bowls the first or second year so Pyrex is crossed off the list. And so it goes. Now I’ve become interested in ironstone. Do I really like ironstone or is it that Martha is my guilty pleasure?
When I saw this collection of wood bits and pieces, I thought of Louise Nevelson.
I tend to avoid the styled booths. They provide nice photos ops and inspiration but they’re usually selling their merchandise at ‘retail’ prices. I’ve become spoiled by shopping at flea markets as I know that what ever I want, I can usually find if for a price I’ll like if I’m willing to wait. E.g.: I needed a dresser and knew I wanted solid wood, mid century design. I think it was our 4th Brimfield year that I found my dresser.
Just like this one, except this one is listed for $1,200 on a vintage furniture website. I scored mine for $40. Yes, $40. This is why I love to shop flea markets. You will always find something cool for a great price.