Thursday, March 10, 2011

National Flea Market Association Conference

I was so excited to be going to my first NFMA conference! After stocking the cupboards and writing detailed directions for my wonderful nephew who would be staying with the younger Wolff's, eight of us were off to Vegas, baby, for the 13th Annual National Flea Market Association (NFMA) Conference.

100 flea markets nationwide belong to the NFMA. It was wonderful to be able to meet with many interesting people and share information and ideas about our markets.

Official mission statement of the NFMA: "The National Flea Market Association exists to serve the public interest and to benefit the flea market industry by fostering high standards of business conduct which merits public trust." Source:

Speakers from the industry shared pertinent information with us. We heard from Ron Cates of Constant Contact  (our email serviceand he called me his "hero" because we have over 2000 people on our email list, which is more than the other flea market in attendance! It was nice to hear that we are utilizing today's technology and reaching so many people! And there is even more to expand upon as we move forward! We will be working on utilizing"smartphone technology" and connecting all of our social media sites: website, facebook group, facebook page, blog, twitter, youTube, email. Hope you can keep up with us!

Greg Dove shared flea market survey statistics with us. You may already know this, but now it is official! Flea markets are economically important. They provide family income, create jobs and offer a venue for small business entrepreneurs. For further reading,  please go to an extensive survey conducted by University of Chicago professor, John A. List.

Yes, there was glitz and glamour, laughter and bonding, a lot of walking, too much eating and an unspecified amount of gambling. (Not me, I saved my money for new shoes and sat at the machines learning how to use the iPhone for future flea market applications!). Some of us came home with winnings, some with new shoes, but we all came home with very valuable knowledge to help us make                                                                                                       Wolff's Flea Market even better!

Of course, we couldn't pass up an opportunity to record Wolff's Flea Market Jingle in Las Vegas!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More Than Chips: Entertaining With Flea Market Finds: Part 2


Fully stocked cart
When I saw this kitchen cart upstairs in Palatine, I think it actually communicated with me. I felt some power of attraction and knew I must have it. It seemed lonely and out of place, never really having a true purpose in its previous life. I found out it had sat for years in a storage unit, left to fend for itself, receiving minor dings after it was purchased and deserted. A rescue mission by me seemed to be in order. After paying for it, I realized that this behemoth was definitely something to be reckoned with. It was solid wood and HEAVY! Luckily, it had wheels. I haphazardly rolled it onto the elevator (or did it roll me?) and placed it behind the front desk.

As I walked through the flea market, I received many approving nods from customers and vendors, because after all, although not an antique, this was a quality piece of furniture that just looked important. I think our vendors were happy to see me purchase such a large item, which possibly showed my support of their hard work. When customers see a large item purchased by a staff member, I think it seems to raise the importance of that item in their eyes. They think, "Why didn't I see that?", or  "It must be something good if one of the Wolff's bought it."

For the rest of the day, all of us behind the front desk walked around it and I heard various comments: Who bought that thing? What is that? What is Sharon going to do with that?  Where will she put it? That's big. That's really heavy. Yes, I knew this cart had possibilities; but what?

By the time I hauled Big Cart to my van (by myself), drove home, and interrupted my boys from Wii to lug it into the house, my creative juices were cooking. Never mind their comments, "Now what did you buy Mom?" and  "Is this going to be my the way by the computer?" When I have an idea, I really don't listen or even hear what people are saying about my plan and it's possible intrusion into their space. I just forge ahead and do it.

Here are the steps I took and the items I collected to transform Big Cart into a functional, attractive beverage station for entertaining:

Bottle opener with
waste container

  1. Applied 4 coats of clear varnish on top for protection and allowed it to dry for 3 days
  2. Placed an 18" x 18" scrap marble slab on top as a drink preparation surface
  3. Attached a metal bottle opener (I couldn't find a vintage one, so I purchased one at a restaurant supply store)
  4. Various white plates and bowls, all purchased at the flea
  5. Great snack food, also purchased at the flea
  6. Liquor, soda, ice bucket misc, supplies (not from the flea)
  7. At the last minute, I attached a stainless steel canister from Ikea under the bottle opener that served as a waste receptacle. It worked!
  8. As an added touch, I printed directions for a few cocktails

Click photo for 5 recipes
of popular cocktails
So, whose choice was it to bring this heavy, over sized cart into my house? The cart? Or me? Either way, Big Cart met with rave reviews at my party and hopefully I will be motivated to entertain more often in the future. Big Cart isn't going anywhere and has found its forever home.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Decorating With Flea Market Finds: Stocking the Kitchen

The challenge last Saturday at Wolff's Flea Market in Palatine was the result of an idea that popped into my mind about 5 minutes before I announced it on the loud speaker. I am currently developing a long-term theme, "Decorating With Flea Market Finds", that will run through the end of the summer. As I thought about how to apply and share this idea with our thousands of followers, inspiration hit me. I remembered a conversation I had at the National Flea Market Conference with Anthony Pretto of Kobey's Swap Meet, San Diego.  He had created a "how-to" video for cheaply furnishing an apartment. I thought, "YES, we can do that at Wolff's!" It is so exciting to hear about new ideas that my subconscious immediately began to ruminate. Hence, Saturday's theme emerged.

Usually, when I create what I call a "facebook photo theme",  I invite members of Wolff's Flea Market Facebook Group and announce it over the speaker at Palatine so that customers and vendors will know what I have planned for the day. Saturday's theme called for a "virtual stocking" of basic kitchen supplies.  I planned to meander the market in search of kitchen items.  I would ask prices, and take photos and video of my finds. The theme would not include food or large appliances. Beyond that, I didn't know what I would find, nor if I could find it all in one place or on one day.

Guess what? I did it! Take a look at this video and you'll see how we stocked our kitchen for under $400!
Items include: dishes, glasses, silverware, mixing bowls, pots and pans. coffee maker, microwave, toaster oven, utensils, blender, knives, bowls, coffee mugs and more! Most items were new and some were gently used. Definitely a great starter collection of kitchen supplies!  Watch the video here.