The flea-and-artisan market concept has seen a steep rise in Denver over the past ten years, bringing more markets and, in increments, a new sophistication, higher-end wares, food and drink add-ons, and a party atmosphere to what was once a simple blend of junking, craft-shopping and the serendipity of finding one-of-a-kind trinkets and vintage clothing.
But as the Denver Flea, which debuted in City Park in 2014, rebrands as the glossy Fetch Market in 2019, Amy Yetman of the Horseshoe Craft and Flea Market, a five-time Westword Best of Denver winner, is making changes that include some downsizing. Yetman says she wants to get back to the basics that made the Horseshoe so great when it debuted nearly ten years ago in the Olinger Mortuary parking lot on Tennyson Street: a folksy market, with lots of vintage items and the promise of a lucky find — an idea that inspired the Horseshoe moniker.
While this year’s spring Horseshoe, which opens on Saturday, May 11, is expanding to two days and moving from the Berkeley neighborhood to a Broncos Stadium parking lot that accommodates more people and vendors (there will be more than 200 vendors), Yetman hopes to restore the unexpected and fortuitous qualities that rocked its earliest incarnations.
“We’re going to scale back and just do the things we feel passionate about,” Yetman says. “We want it to be about more than drinking and being cool for your Instagram selfies — a market that’s inclusive of all ages and kinds of people.”
Scaling back includes the elimination of a mid-summer market this year and backing out of the Horseshoe’s smaller side concern, the Jefferson Park Farm and Flea Market, which Yetman sold to the on-site owners of Sarto’s restaurant. After expanding the Horseshoe’s holiday market to Belmar last season, she's focusing only on the original seasonal sale at the Highlands Masonic Temple in 2019.
“By the end of last year, I was so burned out,” Yetman recalls. “This was not feeling good, and it’s not how I want it to feel. All the competing markets have gotten bigger and seem to all have the same vendors, which is great for all the small businesses. But we are a small creative business ourself.”
So she’s rethinking the business in a reverse trend. “I love what it is and how it evolved, but my first love is vintage,” Yetman adds. “I miss the more vintage aspects of the old markets, and I want to reach out to more vendors who don't have creative aspirations.”
To that end, Yetman is not only adding new vintage and antique dealers, but she’s seeking out undiscovered vendors and makers, while charging an unprecedented $5 entry fee to the Horseshoe to cover new business costs: “I want to attract the vendors who are just trying it out to see if it’s a good fit, so I don’t want to charge much for vendor fees.” The entry fee, she admits, “is a bummer, but it isn't fair to keep upping vendor prices instead.”
While the new stadium location, a leap made after news that the Olinger property was being sold, seems a less neighborly venue at first glance, Yetman thinks otherwise. “I live near the stadium. It’s where my kids learned to ride their bikes. It’s the city’s playground. And there’s an amazing view. It’s a great place for a market.” Plus, ample free parking is built into the deal.
With the additional space to grow, she’s planning other incentives for market-goers this year. “I’ve always wanted to do more of a creative experience at the market, but I never had the room for workshops,” Yetman says. In addition to drop-off hands-on experiences to keep kids busy while their parents shop, the spring Horseshoe is hosting a variety of free home-and-garden-related sessions both days, including, among other things, a home-style mood-boarding workshop with Texan Kate Bendewald on Saturday and a Plants 101 class with horticulturist Rooney Bloom.
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And along with artisanal food, food trucks and live music, a live auction on Saturday will put one-of-a-kind vintage treasures on the block: “We have the old chairlifts from Copper Mountain,” she observes, “and other neat, interesting pieces.”
For Yetman, going big is a road leading back to something small: “It’s not just about gathering stuff, but it’s also about the experience,” she notes. “People care about what they're buying. I want the Horseshoe to be a community gathering place where you can shop local from vendors you won’t find at any other market in Denver
and stumble upon lucky finds. Everything else seems the same, and I long for a little more weirdness.”
Find some of that weirdness — and your own idea of flea-market bliss — at the spring Horseshoe Market, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 11, and Sunday, May 12, in Lot G at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Gate admission is $5 (free for children ages twelve and under), and a portion of the proceeds benefits Denver Urban Gardens. Learn more about free workshops and register in advance at the Horseshoe Market's website.