Heading into its fourth season, The Leslieville Flea is making a return to its summertime outdoor location on the beautiful sprawling lawns of Ashbridge Estate on Sunday, June 19. What started out as a small setup in the parking lot behind The Duke has evolved into a full-fledged, impeccably curated marketplace for salvaged wares and crafted goods. It's also as fine a place as any to amble away a Sunday in the neighbourhood.
We checked in with Brigid Elmy and Christine Roberts, co-founders of The Leslieville Flea and the dynamic duo who put together the monthly market. Here, they tell us how the flea got its start, the treasures unearthed on any given Sunday and what's in store for the 2016 edition.
WHAT IS THE LESLIEVILLE FLEA ALL ABOUT?
The Leslieville Flea is a monthly curated market with vendors selling vintage, salvage, antiques, collectibles, upcycled and handcrafted goods. We also have open-air yoga, coffee sold from a little red truck that unfolds, live music and beer from Left Field Brewery. Many visitors remark that it’s become a community hub and a great way to spend a Sunday, meet up with friends and catch up with neighbours.
HOW DID THE IDEA FOR THE MARKET COME TO LIFE?
We met while Brigid had a pop-up store and I was trying to sell my upcycled home goods. We knew full-time retail wasn't what we wanted to do, and realized there were many people in the same situation looking to sell their own vintage items, fashions and handcrafted goods. We're both east enders and there was nothing on the east side at that time so the timing and location were perfect.
WHAT ARE MOST PEOPLE LOOKING FOR AT THE LESLIEVILLE FLEA? BARGAINS? RARE FINDS? ONE-OF-A-KIND PIECES?
All of the above, really. There are the early birds who come to scoop up the rare finds, the people who come to bargain and those who just want a great item for their house. Something with history and something that is so cool and rare that it becomes a conversation piece. We have a lot of people who are committed to buying local, and having so many vendors who make their products right here in Toronto appeals to them. It's amazing to meet the makers, creators and collectors. You get the stories of how it was found or made and it has really become a community of people.
HOW IS THE LESLIEVILLE FLEA DIFFERENT THAN OTHER ANTIQUE MARKETS?
We curate the Flea to have a huge variety of items, but our number one priority is to have the best quality vendors. You can find almost anything here for any style, budget or taste. We have graphic designers and artists selling their original work (on a T-shirt or on a canvas), we have craftspeople selling things made by hand the old-fashioned way, and we have collectors who are passionate about their finds and want to share them. It's not stuffy at all, there is no attitude — just fun and interesting items. It's really become a great event — with the beer and the coffee, food and live music, it's more than a market.
DESCRIBE A FEW OF THE ABSOLUTE GEMS TO BE UNEARTHED OVER THE YEARS
Honestly, there are too many to list. But a few that stand out are: A bumper from an old truck made into an outdoor bench; bath and body products that rival the quality of any big-name brands at prices that cannot be beat, and they are made locally and ethically; vintage fur from old coats remade into purses and vests that are to die for; blueprints from the Toronto District School Board dating back to the 1920s; agricultural prints from the '50s; leather jackets from the '70s; and mid-century barware and handmade leather bracelets for him and her.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO ESTABLISH IN LESLIEVILLE?
Mainly because we both live close to the area, and the demographic is just perfect for this kind of market. That, and the fact that all the other markets tend to be in the west end and the east end seemed to be really hungry for this kind of thing.
HOW DOES YOUR MARKET FIT INTO THE COMMUNITY?
Leslievillers like to shop local. We support local therefore they support us. We've become a real staple here. You'll often find neighbours coming together or meeting up here. It's become a true hub and a real community event. We have many vendors who are in the neighbourhood themselves and you'll see customers walking or biking to the market more often than not. The Leslieville Farmers' Market is across the street so the whole area becomes a very vibrant part of Leslieville on those Sundays.
DESCRIBE HOW THE LESLIEVILLE FLEA HAS EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS
We started behind the Duke in their parking lot with just 20 vendors, and we now have over 50 vendors that are the absolute best. The crowds get bigger and more vendors sign up each year so we're thrilled with how it's grown. But it has the same feel as it did that first month. We haven't changed our mandate, which is to have the best vendors and market around.
In early 2016, the Leslieville Flea General Store was launched to provide an online shopping experience that builds on the success of the markets. It gives shoppers a venue to connect with their favourite vendors online between markets.
WHAT'S NEW FOR THE 2016 SEASON?
We worked really hard to get local Left Field Brewery to come on board. Mostly permits, red tape and hoops, but we did it, and we're so excited to be able to add a true local experience that just happens to have fantastic beer.
We will also have yoga in the park again this year. We did a soft launch last year and hope to expand on this. All proceeds from that go to Red Door Shelter — it's our way of giving back and Heather at TadPole yoga is a great partner with us on that.
HOW DO YOU LIKE TO SPEND TIME IN THE EAST END?
Chris: Anything on or near the water — paddleboarding, running, walking my dogs. Shopping and eating local, hanging out with friends and neighbours and just enjoying the incredible place we live in. I really feel lucky every day to be able to live in this neighbourhood and raise my family here.
Brigid: Cycling — almost daily — and shopping from all the independently owned shops. Long live local shopping.