By Emma Richman
When picturing a “flea market,” one may imagine a place for people to buy and sell vintage and antique items similar to those found at a garage or estate sale; and one might picture having to mindlessly sort through bins upon bins of outdated products for the small chance of coming across something worthwhile.
But walking into one of Sacramento’s eclectic flea markets is a different story. Whether business is done in a large parking lot, within a community park or even in the middle of downtown Sacramento, the atmosphere of local flea market-style festivals is created to be lively and exciting.
Once a month, SacTown’s Finest Market has been transforming an empty parking lot in the Arden area into a bustling hub of pop-up tents, where over 150 vendors of clothing, crystals and handmade items gather, and food trucks lure hungry shoppers. Attendees of all ages, including families, roam and mingle through, sipping cool and refreshing agua fresca to beat the heat. Just recently, it switched locations to Winn Park in Midtown with the same entertaining objectives.
“Every market has their own culture,” says Leandra Coronado, the co-founder of SacTown’s Finest Market.
How SacTown’s Finest Market got its start
SacTown’s Finest Market was created February 2022 by 22-year-old Sacramento natives Leandra Coronado and Lalo Mata.
They got into the flea market scene as vendors, beginning their first business venture selling thrifted clothing under Crazy Kid Thrifts. They sold at local farmers markets and smaller events with around 50-70 vendors.
However, they had one problem. “We were having a little trouble in the beginning getting into markets that we would attend as just consumers,” Mata says, because larger markets had more of a limited space. So they wanted to create an event where everyone would be free to go, the type of place where “anyone would walk out with something at our market.”
At the beginning of 2022, Coronado and Mata agreed they wanted to start the new year off on a good note. So, they developed the idea to form the kind of flea market they had envisioned participating in. The couple reached out to Vida De Oro, a nonprofit Latino center in the Arden area, which provided them a space on their property to host their market, in exchange for a donation. Jumping between different nonprofits, Arden became the space for their Sacramento-based flea market.
To spread the word to future vendors and attendees, Coronado and Mata carried the idea through word of mouth. And due to their experience around local flea markets, they had access to the right crowd of people to draw in. Another factor in gaining popularity was through their Instagram, which Mata remarks, once set up, “We got a good idea of what our crowd would like to see in content and the fliers for the markets.” They hired graphic designer Jefferson Miller to create themed monthly advertisements that perfectly reflected their supporters’ eye, according to Mata.
Their first event last February had a turnout of around 80 vendors, which blew away both their expectations. Since then SacTown’s Finest has continued to gain momentum, and they have created a branch in Elk Grove, called the Bloom Festival.
Other markets focus on reaching a target demographic and culture, Coronado remarks, which she thinks is an amazing and necessary part of the flea market space. But according to Coronado, since starting their market, the couple has stuck to the sentiment of cultivating a space where everyone of all ages can come together in the community and explore what their market has to offer.
Coronado says that many vendors will sign up to their market, where it costs $100 per plot of land, having never sold at another event before. For all vendors, especially newbies, Coronado and Mata want to make sure everyone has a great experience with them.
Coronado goes on to say, “There is no market without our vendors, and so I would say that when a vendor comes … they really love the experience of SacTown’s Finest Market, the environment, and they do really well. So I think it’s really encouraging for them to then want to get into more markets.”
Jamie Wolcott attended the Bloom Festival, SacTown’s Finest’s Elk Grove branch, and ran a booth encouraging kids to paint rocks for free. She has run Sacto Cali Rocks since 2016, an organization that has a Facebook group of around 12,000 members committed to sparking joy by painting rocks with inspiring messages and hiding them around the community.
Getting out in the community is special to Wolcott, as someone with health issues that affect her ability to go out often. She’s been coming to markets since 2017, and says, “I love the different types of vendors that are [at the Bloom Festival].. I love how open it is, I love the atmosphere. Talking to people, getting to know people, and it’s always fun to just be out in the fresh air.”
On the future of SacTown’s Finest, Mata says that thanks to their diverse crowd of vendors and attendees, “We’re lucky enough to have the space to go and push it in any direction we want it, whether its making a marketplace where we do a bunch of different markets, or we branch out into different locations.”
Walking through the World’s Worst Expo
Another event that has gained traction in the local flea market scene since its beginning in 2021 is World’s Worst Expo, a monthly event located on 11th Street in downtown Sacramento. During these events, walking down the already busy streets of the city during peak business hours feels adventurous. Music permeates down each block where vendors sit with bold displays of hand picked clothing from all eras and aesthetics, such as streetwear, sportswear, vintage, ’90s grunge and Y2K.
One shop, Dirty Thrift Wear, run by Cameron Almada and Lena Yorba, has been around since last October and benefits from the excessive foot traffic from the event. Selling clothes hand sourced by them at prices they feel comfortable with is fulfilling for them. According to Almada, “When you find somebody that finds a piece they really like and they see the price is even more affordable and they get more excited, it’s a good feeling.”
Shontay Rodriguez, owner of Lilou of the Valley Vintage, a clothing shop selling curated and one-of-a-kind secondhand pieces, has attended these festivals since 2022.
She has attended other events, but sticks with selling primarily at World’s Worst Expo. She says, “Other one’s are tailored more towards streetwear or certain decades and eras where [at World’s Worst Expo] I can get a good mix of people that are looking for different things … more of a good variety of decades, which is what I like to do.” Being in a place where people can find anything from punk rock to workwear, Shontay knows she’s reached the right community.
Rodriguez cultivates her vast collection of vintage pieces from all over, naming other flea markets, thrift stores and estate sales as her top spots to find hidden gems. As she spends most of her time digging to find the perfect items for her shop, she says it has become not only her career, but an integral part of who she is.
“It is a lot of work, working for yourself,” Rodriguez says. “It’s not for the faint of heart to be in a small business … You don’t punch a clock, the clock is constantly running. Every second counts, and every cent counts, too.”
Business was thriving for Emaisha Waiters, owner of gemstone accessories and waist bead shop Bohemian Stones. She views the vendor fee of $125 as immensely worth it compared to the success she leaves the event with, having consistent $1,200 days.
“[World’s Worst Expo] really helps small businesses grow so much, otherwise it’s like you wouldn’t be able to reach the same amount of customer bases,” says Waiters. “Before I started these markets, it was really hard to get sales online … but being here is where I’ve built most of my following on Instagram, meeting people face-to-face, they see me, they trust me, they hear me, it’s so nice.”
This story was done in collaboration with Sacramento City College’s journalism department.