Two days before her third, large-scale flea market, blogger, vintage purveyor and Vintage Bazaar co-founder Katherine Raz says she's in the eye of the hurricane.
All is calm now as 50 vendors -- vintage store owners, professional designers and online sellers -- are in place to set up for this weekend's Vintage Bazaar. But between noon and 6 p.m. on Saturday, the space at 2229 S. Halsted is set to be mobbed with thousands of local lovers of vintage clothes, accessories, home goods and curiosities.
Raz and co-founder Libby Alexander have come a long way since they discussed their common love of vintage and created the first market in February 2010 at DANK Haus in Ravenswood.
"We had no idea what we were doing," Raz laughs, saying she couldn't fathom the logistics that go into an event this size. How to start? It ended up being about more than securing vendors and finding a space, though both of those took a lot of work. It was about marketing their new brand to an audience who didn't know them.
Raz and Alexander, Chicagoans for more than a decade, spread the word via local social media, but they also took advantage of contacts in the blog community.
Most importantly, Raz said, they invited everybody. It didn't matter how big a publication's audience was, if they liked flea markets, design or vintage, they got an invitation. And the duo purposely chose vendors who used Twitter and Facebook to help market the event. "The vendors did the work for us," Raz said.
In the end, about 3,000 people showed up, and Raz and Alexander hope to host The Vintage Bazaar quartlerly at different locations across Chicago.
Raz says the idea worked in part because it fills a void in the local vintage scene by creating a large, affordable market that caters to younger people than, say, the Randolph Street Antiques Market. It's sort of like a Renegade Craft Fair for vintage.
And they're taking the opportunity to expand. Raz and Alexander want to build the brand and even expand it into a service that connects people who buy vintage with small businesses that sell it. From there, the goal is to build a hyper-local place where people can list their vintage items for sale -- a different concept from a place like Etsy, Raz says, where "vintage is the red-headed stepchild."
For those considering a foray into vintage selling, Chicago is a great place to do it, she says. There's a population that's hungry for it and a strong stable of sellers who give the city a reputation as a vintage-buying destination.
But before you head to your first estate sale, remember that it's important to brand yourself and set your business apart from other shops. You need to have a distinct and unique aethetic for what you sell, so you stand out instead of being lumped in with everyone else.
Once you get there -- and thanks to the Internet, you don't need a storefront to do it -- Raz says it's key to get your stuff out there. At The Vintage Bazaar, perhaps?
"Yeah, do our show!" she says.