It’s that time of year again! Brimfield is my very own Disney World. It is truly the best place on earth!
For one week in May, July and September, antiques dealers from all over the world gather in Brimfield, Massachusetts for one of the largest shows in the country. The show consists of over a dozen fields of individual flea markets lined along Route 20. It is hard to believe until you experience it for yourself. If you are going for your first time this week, here are a few of my tips for having a great experience…
- Bring cash. This may seem obvious but it is worth the reminder! Cash is king. There are a few dealers that accept credit cards but it is not the mainstream at Brimfield. Having cash also helps to stick to a budget in my opinion.
- Make a shopping list. At any given time, I have a mental list of key items that I am on the hunt for. It is good to put that list in writing, along with dimensions. Set a limit on what you’re willing to spend on each piece. Brimfield can be overwhelming with options. You can easily lose track of what you’re there for in the first place and what you’d normally pay. I refer to it as Brimfield Brain. Don’t get too swept up!
- Dress the part. This includes layers and closed toe shoes. You can easily shop for 8 hours straight and not even realize it. At least I can! Make sure you are comfortable and well prepared. Maybe you need an umbrella or scarf. Don’t forget sunscreen, perhaps a hat and water. Depending on the weather, the fields can be dusty or muddy. Now is not the time to be a fashion plate.
- Bring a truck. If you don’t have one, rent one. Even if you’re not planning on getting anything big. You never know what treasure you will find and if it doesn’t fit in your sedan, you may never get over it. Rent a U-haul van but don’t wait until you arrive to do so. It’s nearly impossible to find an available one in Brimfield. Bring it with you. It’s worth it. Also, be sure to arrive by 9 am to get a parking spot.
- Buy now. If you take too long to think about it, the next buyer will come along and scoop it up. Don’t wait. You already know this.
- Rarely pay asking price. Dealers expect to give you a lower price at Brimfield. There’s been several times where I didn’t feel the need to haggle and the dealer stills lowers the price about 10% without me even asking. For example, something says $22, they’re pretty much expecting you to offer $20. Haggling is part of the culture here. Definitely “bundle” meaning offer less when buying in volume.
- Bring a cart, dolly and tools. Plus reusable shopping bags for smalls. You’ll also want to have a tape measure handy. A wrench can’t hurt as you may find you’ll have more room if you remove table legs. We find it is much easier to walk around with our carts and load them up as we go. Bungee cords always help. When we have a full cart, we make our way back to load our truck and then we pick up where we left off. Don’t fret if you don’t have these things because you can always find a “Porter for Hire”.
- Take a snack break. As mentioned, Brimfield is like Disney World complete with root beer floats, a beer garden and funnel cake. Treat yo’ self! You’ve earned it.
- Find a favorite field. Many flea markets and the best dealers in the country are confined to just a few miles. I’ve found that each field tends to have its own vibe. Some are heavy on the industrial pieces. Others have tons of shabby pieces. Some are filled with mid-century and clean lines. There are a few fields that I gravitate towards. I try to visit each and every field but then return to the ones that I find fit my personal aesthetic. I am more likely to buy at those.
- Find inspiration. In just a few square miles, there is so much to see and do. There are TV crews. There are buyers for huge international companies. There are small businesses taking off. It is a true inspiration. You can see some of the best merchandising right there in a dusty field. This is where trends are born. With a keen eye, you can spot what is going to be big next season by monitoring what is selling and not selling. For example, a few years ago glass buoys were selling like crazy. Everyone was carrying one around. The following year, that trend was mass-produced by the big box stores and could be found everywhere. Last spring, I noticed that the buoys were barely selling. The same thing happened a few years ago with galvanized olive buckets. Certainly some consumers still appreciate the “real thing” but the reproduction changed the demand. This flea market subculture has a huge impact on mainstream America. Possibly more so than some retailers even realize. Don’t skip any fields because you never know what upcoming trend you’ll spot. And forget what the old timers say, antiques are not dying!
- Make friends! This is a great opportunity to get to know people in the industry. Exchange contact info with your favorite dealers. Meet up with bloggers, magazine editors, designers, etc. You simply never know who you’ll meet. Once we met a couple with the same wedding anniversary as us, just 50 years apart! Someone else gave us their dinner reservation at one of the sought after restaurants nearby.
- That reminds me, Make reservations. Restaurants fill up fast when the fields close at 5 pm. Call ahead of time. And if you’re planning to stay over, book your hotel a few months out. Don’t be afraid to drive 30 minutes or so from your hotel to the event.
That concludes my tips for shopping Brimfield. We won’t be making it this week so I’ll be living vicariously through instagram! What tips do you have for a successful Brimfield experience?