It was back in 1998 that Denver’s flea-market renaissance began with the Ballpark Market, which brought its European-style ambience to Larimer Street near Coors Field. Since then, we’ve had markets hawking antiques and geegaws under viaducts and car-boot sales in parking lots and, eventually, a new, tenacious brand of flea with built-in amenities and art and handmades thrown into the mix. As flea season revs up for another year, here are five of the best in Denver, all of which have won awards in the Best of Denver over the years and all of which continue to go strong.
5) A Paris Street Market
8 a.m. to 3 p.m. the first Saturday of every month
May through October
The Paris, which began on the streets of downtown Littleton and later moved to more spacious digs at Aspen Grove, has staying power. It divided and multiplied for a while, with a second market in Lakewood, but now it stands alone in Littleton, just doing what works so well year after year. Here’s what we wrote about A Paris Street Market back in 2002 (with an updated finale):
What could be better on a sunny Saturday morning than this stroll through a wonderland of hand-picked junk and one-of-a-kind treasures? It's a small but classic market, with a little bit of everything — from the perfect sturdy covered cake platter to a hand-sewn cotton girl's pinafore in aqua, festooned with purple flowers, for only four bucks. What else? The usual what-have-you, including garden ornaments, cheerful salt-and-peppers in the shape of a family of robins, rustic handcrafts, old and new jewelry and vintage linens are only a few of the things that await patient shoppers. Wear a sun hat, as it can get warm on a summer day, but if you start to fade, you can always duck into Aspen Grove’s shops for indoor browsing or catch a beer and a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse.
4) Sweet William Market
Founders Green, Stapleton
9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every last Saturday of the month
May through September
When Lizzie Kienast and Kim Kouba brought flea-shopping to the then-fledging Stapleton redevelopment nearly ten years ago with the Sweet William Market, a flea as fresh as a spring garden, they showed shoppers a market with a new sophistication. Today Sweet William carries on under Kouba’s solo watch. We said this about what’s now a staple in Stapleton in 2007, and it still holds true:
Sweet William Market popped up last spring like its floral namesake, all pure and perky and lacking pretension. Owners (and Stapleton residents) Kim Kouba and Lizzie Kienast stitched together their open-air flea market by choosing a ripe collection of vendors offering lots of quality retro, refurbished, nostalgic and trendy merchandise in a relaxed atmosphere. They're coming back for a second season in May, but until then, you can find them at www.sweetwilliammarket.com. The picking promises to be good.
3) Horseshoe Market
46th Avenue and Tennyson Street
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 9, July 11 and October 3
Holiday Market (details to be announced)
When the Horseshoe first hit the Berkeley neighborhood in 2010, it was the hottest thing in flea markets, and that hasn’t really changed: The seasonal market’s wondrous mix of food, antiques, clothing and finely crafted wares struck a new note with shoppers and garnered it our Best of Denver award for three years running, from 2011 to 2013. Here’s what we had to say about it in 2013:
The Horseshoe's become our perennial winner, and somehow, it just keeps getting better. A good part of its charm lies in its versatility: Not precisely a flea market, though quality vintage goods are in abundance, the Horseshoe combines the best of two worlds — quality handmades and curated curiosities — and mixes them up under its cheerful rows of tents. And husband-and-wife team Doug and Amy Yetman do a bang-up job filling and running the market, picking and choosing a talented cross-section of vendors to sell wares in a sunny atmosphere that includes food-truck eats and other niceties. And remember: It's called "Horseshoe" because of the lucky connotations. Come down to Tennyson Street, and see just how lucky you get.
2) Valverde Bazaar Outdoor Market
Eron Johnson Antiques
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 16
Denver antique dealer Eron Johnson introduced his own vision of what a street market should be two years ago with a few friends and an offbeat concept. It took off faster than he ever could have dreamed, and now hosts more than 85 vendor booths and a flotilla of food trucks. Here’s what we liked so much about the Valverde Bazaar in 2014:
Antiques dealer Eron Johnson had spring fever early last year, and the Valverde Bazaar was the serendipitous result, a gathering of a select group of creative friends — and their creative friends — for an outdoor market like no other in the metro area. Modeled after London's Portobello Road, where, Johnson recalls, "you never knew what you'd see in the next booth," Valverde is a beautiful blend of quality vintage goods and antiques, high-end flea-market chic, open-air art show and craft fair, all put together with an eye for unique and well-made merchandise.
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1) The Denver Flea
Bindery on Blake
Kick-off party: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, April 17, $25
Spring Flea: Noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 18, free
RSVP in advance for a free New Belgium craft beer
And then there's the Denver Flea: Bigger, better and more like a festival, with even more reasons to spend the day exploring vendor booths, eating and drinking, since the founders of the market had the bright idea to include craft beers in its handmade mix. Eureka! Here’s our 2015 paean to a new idea:
In one fell swoop, Blake Adams and friends made the flea market more man-friendly — in a unisex, fun way — with the Denver Flea, which popped up last year in different locations and collaborations to suit the season while mashing up its merchandise with free craft beers at the door (to all who RSVP in advance) and good eats to cure the mid-shopping munchies. This is no garage-sale flea market, either: Quality vintage items and handmade crafts by local artisans are what's on sale, and those snacks come from a fleet of the city's better food trucks. And the fun doesn't stop there: Along with its vendor booths, the Denver Flea has built-in activities for all ages. This is definitely a market catch.