Denver Flea and more than 100 local businesses cordially invite you to “fleak” out this weekend. The massive warehouse shopping party hosted at Bindery on Blake brings together creative entrepreneurs from all over the Front Range to sell their wares and talk, engage, and share their passions with thousands of Denverites. Plus, attendees can enjoy food, music, cocktails, and beer—including a special collaboration brew with New Belgium called Fleak Out Wild Ale, available exclusively at the event.
We spoke with a few of Denver Flea’s most popular vendors to get an insider’s look at what to expect at this year’s marketplace.
Laura Norris, owner of Adorn: Jewelry-maker and metalsmith inspired by geometric design and clean, simple shapes. Based out of Boulder.
Jeremy Priest, president and co-founder of Knotty Tie: A shop of sewers and designers that handmakes high-quality neckties, bow ties, scarves, and pocket squares printed on organic cotton. Based out of Denver and the very first vendor to sign up with Denver Flea.
Matt Pickett, co-founder of Pickett Brothers: An all-natural cocktail mixer company specializing in ginger beer syrup. Based out of Brooklyn and Denver.
Kelly Perkins, owner of Spinster Sisters: A full array of handcrafted skincare products—soaps, moisturizers, salts, deodorant, suncreen—made with natural and fair-trade ingredients. Based out of Golden.
Kate Kavanaugh, owner of Western Daughters: A butcher shop that works with local farmers and ranchers to source grass-fed and pasture-raised meat. Based out of LoHi.
What vendors are you most looking forward to seeing at Denver Flea?
Norris: I love the Denver Fashion Truck. They’re a mobile boutique and very exciting to me. I love their whole business concept.
Priest: We have a lot of friendships and personal relationships that have developed over time with Flea vendors, but I’m excited to see what new vendors are there that I don’t even know about. Part of all this is seeing friends, but the other part is seeing what we didn’t know existed.
Kavanaugh: I’m really excited about the line-up. The Real Dill guys—I love working with them and their pickles are amazing. Always excited to see Winter Session being involved at an event. I’m probably most excited about them.
What is the most exciting part about participating in the Flea?
Pickett: Interacting with consumers and getting feedback. The first flea we did was very successful. It’s a very beneficial tool to reach consumers who might not know [about your] product and let them be able to taste it on the spot.
Perkins: It’s just a really fun environment. They do a great job of somehow gathering up the perfect demographic for my products. Every time we do it the booth is very, very busy with really nice people.
What motivates you to be a maker?
Priest: The complexity of the world. The world is so complex that at times we feel like we can’t do much or make an impact. We don’t know where anything we buy is made. We don’t know what’s in it. We just know the price. In light of all that complexity, a lot of craftspeople just take it back to the basics. For us, it was learning how to sew. Once you start doing that and have that enthusiasm, it’s contagious. Other people want that simplicity in their lives too.
Kavanaugh: What has always motivated me is to give back to the land. Land stewardship is the main mission of Western Daughters: to help improve the region and economy; to give back in a way that is greater than the product I make and has a wide reach. As a butcher, what we really want to do is work with ranchers who raise animals to help restore native grasses and Colorado land.
What will be the hottest item at your booth?
Norris: I made body chains that are definitely a statement piece but are simple enough to wear every single day. I think that will be very successful—I’m hoping. The Denver crowd gets excited about gaudy. People in Boulder are little hesitant to go there with their fashion, but people in Denver will definitely go there.
Priest: We just did some new Denver tie designs and we have topography maps of some fourteeners here in Colorado. I’m really excited to see what people think about those and generate new ideas for the next Flea. We made Ski Free into a pattern, too. That’s going to be a really awesome one.
Perkins: Our soap is usually pretty popular. We have a good reputation for it. We use all-natural botanicals and have new packaging, fun marketing and great T-shirts that go along with our products. And I’m really excited about the new packaging—it’s very dramatic.
What makes Denver Flea so unique and different?
Norris: Blake and all the organizers are very good at what they do, and it’s really well organized. They transform this old empty warehouse into an incredible venue and create and amazing environment. It’s really inspiring. Also the vendors are amazing. They just rock. Everyone’s booths are so well done.
Kavanaugh: This Flea has done an incredible job bringing together a wide variety of vendors that do so many things. At fleas you typically see female-dominant jewelry. Here you see everyone from people who make pickles to butchers to people who do woodworking and leatherworking. What makes it unique is how many industries it touches. Here we have so many incredible makers and industries, and to pay homage to that, to bring them together in one place will create success.
How does it feel to be in the maker community?
Norris: It’s expanded my horizons so much. I’ve lived in Boulder for a while and I’m now breaking into the Denver scene and it feels wonderful. Being introduced to other makers has been amazing. The Flea gave me that outlet to meet other people who share my dream and have the same goals. That’s the most exciting thing.
Priest: It feels…refreshing. There’s a lot of purpose behind the work and the final product really speaks for itself. It’s refreshing to see people continually reinvent things that really needed it. But it also has a youthful feel to it. It’s optimistic. It’s certainly expanding, and it’s a great community to be a part of. Rather than something that’s exclusive, not welcoming to new people and judgmental—it’s the complete opposite.
Perkins: I’ve met some of the most creative people of my life [at the Flea]. My husband calls us carnies. It’s a great community of people. I’ve met other soap makers, and it’s not so much about competition—we’re all supporting each other. We’re trying to make a living doing our dream. It’s super hard work but you can count on your neighbors and fellow vendors to support you.
Why should people go to the Denver Flea?
Norris: I think everyone should go because it’s so much fun. You can make a whole day of it and you should bring your friends. It will expose you to people with incredible skills in your own community that you never knew. I make my own jewelry and do metalworking and I still look at other makers and say, “How do you do that? How did you make that happen?” Even if you’re not a maker yourself, maybe you’ll be inspired to try something.
Kavanaugh: I’d be interested to see a very robust slice of life that’s happening in Denver right now. It’s a gathering of all these different hubs and industries that are just really beginning to get started, but are molding and shaping what is making this city so special and unique.
What’s one thing you absolutely have to do at the Flea?
Priest: Ask the maker what inspires their work. If you ask that question you’re going to find a great amount of value in everything you’re looking at. You’re going to leave inspired. You’re going to look at things differently and consider crafting things yourself. And I would try the New Belgium beer.
Kavanaugh: You have to get a cocktail or a beer and you have to enjoy it. The Flea is about keeping an open mind and wandering. Don’t have a set thing you’re looking for—which is always well done when lubricated with alcohol.
Norris: Above all else, what flea has given me is an outlet to meet other makers. Other business people who are like me, who have full-time jobs, are working from their guest bedrooms, and staying up all night making things. It’s wonderful to be able to meet all these people.
Priest: Some of the best days [I’ve had] in Denver were at the Flea. It’s a lot more than a shopping experience. Other markets are about transactions. They are competitive and hard to get into. You have to apply seven months in advance. They pack as many vendors into a tiny space as humanly possible. You can’t talk to anyone more than 30 seconds. Why other markets don’t take off—and why Denver Flea is drawing tens of thousands every time—is because they do so much to make every vendor happy. Sam, Lauren, Blake (the organizers)—they’re just awesome people. Their vision for the future is admirable. They’re so enthusiastic and excited about what they do. Every time we’re at the Flea they remind our crew that we were the first vendor to sign up and how grateful they are for that. They do a good job of maintaining relationships. And they’ve done such an awesome job of getting high levels of attendees and great attendees.
Kavanaugh: I feel really excited that this is something that’s happening in Denver. I’m excited about where Denver is going and the Flea is a great indicator of that.
Details: Kick Off Party Friday, April 17, 6 to 10 p.m.; $25 ticket (in advance, $30 day-of) gets you first access to 100+ vendors, bottomless New Belgium Beer and bottomless craft cocktails. Spring Flea, April 18, 12 to 7 p.m., free, RSVP for one New Belgium Beer.