Columbus, OH

Friendship Flea: Local flea market prioritizes community, brings collectors and sellers together

The Lantern
Carlo Pittaluga will be selling his vintage record collection at Friendship Flea market as a vendor on May 13. Credit: Courtesy of Carlo Pittaluga

Friendship Flea, a local flea and oddities market, will host its next event Friday with about 50 vendors selling a variety of goods — including jewelry, vintage clothing, antiques and ethically sourced taxidermy.

The event will occur outside of the 400 W. Rich St. art studios and galleries from 6-10 p.m. S-J Smith, founder of Friendship Flea, said since its creation in 2019, the market has helped people shop locally while making connections within the community.

“I’ve always been passionate about supporting the local economy,” Smith said. “Why would you buy something from Amazon or Target when you can go have an interaction with the person who actually created what you are buying for yourself, to put in your house or to give it to someone as a gift?”

Friendship Flea’s vendors include local creatives and businesses like Franklinton Press, Six One Flora and Tuesday Thrift Company. Smith said she hopes to see people of all ages attend Friendship Flea to experience sustainable alternatives to fast fashion and the energy of Franklinton on a Friday night.

“You’re going to find something really cool that you’re not going to find anywhere else,” Smith said. “It’s just a really vibrant experience.”

After growing up in a collector’s home, Smith said she became accustomed to attending farmers’ markets and secondhand shops. When she moved from Alabama to Columbus for work, she decided to start Friendship Flea as a way to meet her neighbors and participate in the community.

“I was having a conversation with somebody and talking about the possibility of creating an outdoor flea market that is an artsy, more hipster type thing. I jokingly was like, ‘I don’t have any friends, so I’m gonna start this flea market called Friendship Flea.’” Smith said.

Smith said she sees the planning of the event as her creative outlet. The market hosts a variety of vendors that are selected by Smith through an application process, in which she learns about each vendor’s product and tries to see if she can pair different vendors together at a station.

“It’s just something I’m passionate about. I really like being able to create a space for people, and my selfish reason for it is that I like curating it. It is like a creative outlet for me,” Smith said. “I spend a lot of time on the vendor mix and the map and who’s gonna go where.”

Carlo Pittaluga, a vendor at Friendship Flea who sells music records, said the market gives the members of the community an opportunity to show what they can offer each other.

“These are your people and your neighbors,” Pittaluga said. “These are people that you buy coffee from and that help bag your groceries, but they have more to them than that.”

Pittaluga, who has taken part in the event since its debut, said he enjoys the personal interactions the market brings. Having a large record collection, Pittaluga said he likes to share music he’s liked to a new owner.

Pittaluga said he is excited to continue to sign up for the market.

“S-J creates a community,” Pittaluga said. “I got that right away when we started. That’s what hooked me and why I’ll always do Friendship Flea.”

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