September Brimfield is always bittersweet for me. While I’m always excited to go, it also marks the end of summer and flea market season for the year. Last week was my 15th time going to Brimfield over the past several years and it has become a tradition for me. Lots of people are always inquiring about it and showing interest about why I go and the who/what/where, so I decided I should share some tips on the blog and document some of my findings. I mainly went glassware and prop hunting this time around but I’m always looking for something. The easiest thing you can do if you decide you want to go to Brimfield is the following:
- Make a List
Jot down things you’re on the hunt for. Once you get there you will likely feel very overwhelmed, or you will want to buy everything. Having a list makes you motivated and helps you narrow down items and it keeps you focused on what you came here for. I always make a list and cross off things I find them. The goal is to get to the bottom of the list hopefully, but the flea market is so large it’s impossible to see everything. If you don’t find something you’ve been looking for put it at the top of your list for the next Brimfield or flea! Stay goal oriented and you will succeed at all things in life but especially the hunt at Brimfield!
- Get an early start
Start early and stay late. I usually try to get there as early as I can. The first day I’m there is usually a little later than I always anticipate because I’m making the drive from NJ to MA and sometimes I hit rush hour traffic in Conneticut. That’s okay, there’s always tomorrow! I try to be there by 8am and do the whole day till about 5pm. I use to go for a full 3-4 days (the flea market is 6 days 3x a year), but now I just go for 2. Honestly, I can’t fit anything else that’s big in my apartment, so now I just go for smalls and to keep my hand in. You can not do this in 1 day or a few hours. You need to be there for multiple days to have a good chance of seeing a lot of it. I’ve gone so many times that now I know what fields I like because vendors for the most part (if they have been doing the flea market a long time) set up in the same spaces for each Brimfield. Take note of what field you are in and booth numbers. There is a map and I suggest using it to have a plan and to mark off vendors. Make friends with the vendors and visit them the next time you come to Brimfield. They will most likely rememeber you and will probably be more willing to make a good deal because you are a repeat customer.
- Cash is King
Some vendors do accept credit cards now with credit card processing programs like square. If you find a big ticket item that you can not live without this is acceptable. For all other business transactions at any flea market really, cash is the answer. You will get a better deal and are more likely to be able to haggle in price if you’re paying cash. That’s the other thing, always haggle. Nothing is really ever the price listed and this is always negotiable. Sometimes a vendor will list or say a price that is higher than they’re expecting because they are anticipating that you will try to talk them down. You are here to get a deal and so are they! Again I will say play nice with the vendors, they are great, interesting people with a wealth of knownlege in what they are selling. I could talk about glassware all day!
- Dress Appropriately
The flea market is GIANT and you are going to be out in the sun all day walking around. Wear comfortable shoes like sneakers or clogs and rainboots if need be. The fields are dusty and I do not recommend you wear a pair of shoes you really like or are open because your feet will be dirty and those pair of shoes you love will be gross or ruined. If you are anticipating hot weather, shorts and a t-shirt are fine with closed shoes. If raining, a raincoat with a hood and boots. The flea market will not stop if it rains, the vendors aren’t going anywhere and niether should you! If it’s raining you’ll get more deals because less people will be out. If it’s chilly make sure you bring a sweater. Even when the day is going to be hot (minus July) I feel like when I’m starting early (7-8am) I’m cold walking around until the afternoon when it warms up. If the sun is out make sure you have sunblock! This isn’t a fashion show, this is a race to get the most treausures. I don’t wear makeup either. To each their own, but I’m here to dig, find treasures, and make deals!
- Bring a Shopping Cart
Yes. Even when you’re like “I’m not going to get a lot of stuff.” you’re going to get a lot of stuff. Your hands will be full, it’s hot, you’re tired, the car is far. Buy one of those shopping carts your grandma use to have to do grocery shopping with, or some sort of wagon. I do bring re-useable totes as well, but those get heavy and you will need to pile them up in something. You can’t go back to the car everytime you buy something especially when you have a plan of what fields you’re going to next. If you’re on a roll don’t break it! Keep going. Everyone has them, you don’t look silly.
- Stay Hydrated and Eat!
Drinks lots of water and stop for lunch! If you get an early start like me take lunch at 11am. You will beat the crowds and most likely will be able to find a place to sit. If it’s after 12 noon you will not be able to sit and you need to sit, your feet are tired! Get the Pilgrim Sandwich, I mean it. The line might be a little long but that’s for a reason. They are delicious and magical just like Thanksgiving Dinner. The line will go fast, and it will be worth the wait. I usually come back on my last day just to get one for the road. I have been known to bring them back to NYC for people.
- Always get the Donuts
In the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening when you’re leaving. Get the apple cider donuts from Faddy’s. You will smell them when you walk by and you will regret it if you don’t have 1 or 6. They basically do a pop up donut shop, so they’re mixing and frying right there. The hot donuts get dumped into a bowl of cinnamon sugar. It’s everything you have ever dreamed of. They also are genuises and do a fried donut that they cut in half and spread jelly on. It’s like a jelly sandwich. No dissapointing bites of no jelly, a completely even amount of jelly in every bite. They are good for the soul. I joke to the the owner that Faddy’s is the real reason I come back to Brimfield every year. It’s not the only reason, but I’m sure not lying. They have a donut shop in Conneticut if anyone wants to take a road trip with me this winter just to hold me over till May.
- Get the APP
Yes. There is an APP for that. There is a map, a search engine to find items from dealers, save/send GPS location, porters, and show schedule/field info. Defintely a game changer and helps navigating the show much easier. Brimfield Flea Finder is the only app developed specifically for the dealers and attendees of the Brimfield Antique Shows. A must have for any iPhone user who shops Brimfield.
- Stay Local Eat Local
I’ve stayed in them all. Book early because rooms will sell out. I’ve stayed in Southbridge before and it is lovely but I recommend getting a hotel in Sturbridge. It is closer and traffic getting to the flea on Rt. 20 is real. The closer you are and the earlier you get up the better. My favorite places to stay are Sturbridge Host Hotel & Conference Center, Publick House Historic Inn, and The Sturbridge Country Inn. I’ve also stayed in the Days Inn and Econo Lodge in Sturbridge, which are fine choices as well. My favorite place to eat in town is the Kahula restaurant. I have a knack for finding the closest tiki bar to me. They serve Polynesian style food and have a list of tropical drinks. It’s an old school, no frills place but the service and food is good. Come hungry or with a friend because the portions are huge and the drinks are strong! Get the Treausure Hunt, it’s a delicious pina colada variation with cognac in it, we are afterall on a treasure hunt! I also love the Cedar Street Grille, they do classic American food with a new england home style twist. The lobster mac n cheese please! They also always have a nice selection of craft beers, some of them even local like Tree House Brewing Co. or Rapscallion. I’d love to go to a tap room on one of my next trips!
I found a lot of beautiful glassware and props for the studio that I’m excited to share with you here and excited to shoot some cocktails in sometime soon! If anyone has any other questions or comments please feel free to reach out and share. I’d love to update this again when May comes back around. I’d also love to take some photographs of the hotels and restaurants I frequent but there wasn’t enough time for me to do that this time around. I will have to bring my camera and stay an extra day! Happy hunting and I will see you in May. I started the hashtag #brimfieldfinds a number of years back so make sure to use it on your trip!