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Vintage Seller Goes Viral After Being Banned From Major LA Flea Market

The Thread

A couple weeks ago, we caught wind of a viral TikTok from a vintage seller, @amavintagela (Go to her page if you want to see her initial TikTok), where she tells her story on getting banned from a popular local flea market. This TikTok went viral overnight, and many people in the comments had similar bad experiences with the market in question. We reached out to Analise, owner of AMA vintage to hear her side of the story and ask some more questions about what really happened. Here’s what she had to say on the incident:

1. How long have you been at the flea market?

I began reselling as a survival job in 2020 after the entertainment industry shut down during the pandemic and I was laid off from my job as a costume designer. Now being a “pandemic” reseller would delegitimize me to the old guard of vintage resellers but I had been an avid thrifter/collector of vintage since I was a teenager, specialized in styling thrifted/vintage clothing for film and television, and was listing on depop for years on and off. I decided that while the production industry was shut down, it was the perfect time to start my vintage clothing business and this local LA Flea was the only flea open at the time.

Each weekend, I would post “Style Diaries” or market set up videos on TikTok and Instagram which would go viral. This helped to establish the Flea as “a place to be seen” during the pandemic and encouraged other vendors to sign up to sell at the same Flea. I helped clean up and commercialize the flea’s image with its customers through my social media content and presence at the market. This created a mutually beneficial relationship between me and the owner of the Flea who would repost and use my content without paying me to promote their market. I was quickly made permanent and happily sold there every Saturday and Sunday for a year and a half rain or shine.

2. Give us a play by play of what happened

There came a point after the world opened back up in the Fall of 2021 where the foot traffic to the Flea began to dwindle and the area surrounding the lot was starting to deteriorate. The rush of prosperity to the vintage community during the pandemic was a high point in the life cycle of the Flea but the flow of money/customers began to even out over time as competing markets and events went back to business as usual. Despite vendors’ complaints over slow sales, merchandise theft, and other safety concerns the owner of the Flea had been raising the market rent steadily over time.

I was determined to persevere because I loved the community but my customers didn’t feel safe at the market and had begun to turn elsewhere. Between ongoing safety issues and the lull in market foot traffic by Winter 2021 I needed to take a break and re-group. But, by doing so I forfeited my position at the Flea as a permanent vendor. For a few months, I returned to simply curating and selling through Instagram and TikTok. But eventually I missed the thrill of the market and the general sense of community of the vintage world so I decided to create a space for myself to sell again and promote my business on my own.

At the time, my apartment complex had an empty pool I had access to and I decided that I was going to throw a party in the pool to sell my clothes. There is power in numbers so I included other local vintage resellers and small businesses who I’d come to know and love from the community. I took to social media to promote the sale through TikTok and ran around town posting flyers in all the high foot traffic areas for people to see. That first event went viral and over 300 people showed up making it a smashing success. I decided it was worthwhile to continue the events free of charge for everyone involved to build community and I continued to produce and host them over the past year.

Recently, I decided it was time to return to the market. People had been DMing me asking why I wasn’t there. I wanted to come back to the Flea once or twice a month to reestablish myself in a small way. I asked the owner of the Flea for permission directly to come back to the market, even though other vendors had been offering to sell me spaces under the table. I even offered to create content for free for her to post to the Flea’s Instagram and help revitalize its social media presence once again.

The owner of the Flea’s response was to block me on Instagram and tell me it was a “conflict of interest” to have me at her Flea because I had been hosting my own events even though they had just let my friend back in after quite literally the same discretion. Not only that, but there are countless booths at the market that are treated as permanent preferred vendors who have entire retail establishments as well as other influencers directly promoting their own events while in their booths at the Flea.

I decided that the only thing I could do was continue to host my events and try to sell with other markets. But because the owner of the Flea failed to stop me, they continued to mistreat and harass my friends at the market as I started to promote my most recent event. The owner of the Flea continuously threatened to cancel my friend’s upcoming market dates if she chose to sell at my event (which she didn’t out of fear of retaliation) and the other vendors felt similarly threatened when they promoted it.

The last straw for me was two weeks ago when a bunch of my friends at the Flea had their purses and merchandise stolen. A vendor posted about it online to warn other vendors that there were thieves working in the area and that multiple vendors had been hit. The owner of the Flea’s response was to victim blame the vendor for leaving her purse unattended, ban her from the market, and block her online. When I reposted the vendor’s story lots of people reached out saying they had had similar experiences with the owner of the Flea and I decided it was time to speak up.

3. Are you surprised by the community response?

I am not surprised by the community response to my statement about the state of the east side flea markets. There have been rumors around the market for years about the owner of the Flea’s mistreatment of its vendors. Highly respected vintage dealers from around Los Angeles have been coming out of the woodwork to comment that they have been similarly banned by the owner of the Flea for little to no reason at all. There are countless yelp reviews about how the owner has swindled inexperienced vendors out of money and mistreated customers. Many commenters on that viral video note that there is a pattern of racism in the owner’s mistreatment of vendors and customers alike.

I think people are craving a new flea market where the vendors and customers come together to create a happy community experience. Part of the reason that is so difficult is because people like the owner of the Flea get greedy over time, stop reinvesting in the flea market, and set out to exploit young creatives. In partnering with the Left Bank on our summer flea series, with no vendor or entry fees, we are attempting to build a new table for the community. A place where we support one another in our endeavors and attempt to build each other up instead of encouraging competition.

After that video over 150 people signed up to vend with us and create community over competition. We have already peaked the interest of sponsorships, donations, and additional businesses in Frogtown are opening the doors in order to support these young entrepreneurs. If you’re in town on April 22 please check out the Frogtown Flea Market Crawl and help support this budding community!

4. What do you think this signals for some of the older flea markets?

I believe this is an exploitation problem specific to the owner of the Flea. It’s not enough to charge vulnerable people $100 a day for space in a dirt lot rain or shine. I believe it is the responsibility of these market owners to reinvest in the communities they’ve created through promotional events/marketing, ensuring the safety of the market, and especially by treating their vendors with as much respect as market goers.

Without the vendors these markets simply do not exist. “___ Flea” is nothing but an Instagram page that posts creepy voyeuristic upshots of teen girls in order to exploit and profit off them. The online reputation of the Flea was built by the vendors and the customers, not the owner of the Flea.

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