I'm also know as, "The King of Flea". I sell a very interesting cross-section of collectables, housewares, antiques, art, little odds and ends, and of course, the beloved tchotchke. It’s a treasure hunt in the middle of the city. People love our massive display of unique things, particularly retro stuff.
On a table you might find oddities such as a Flux-o-Meter (don’t ask), a gilded bird cage (for your gilded bird), a turn-of-the-century typewriter (what is that?), and even an old milking machine. Young folks love our typewriters and dial telephones. Many of our treasures prompt people to exclaim, “My grandma had one!” or “Does it work? We offer glimpses of the past, plus hundreds of ever-changing collectables such as Depression-era glass, vintage toys, ephemera, and costume jewelry, all at the lowest price permitted by law, as I like to say.
Q: How and when did you get started with vending?
A: I grew up in Brooklyn and got hooked on collectables as a kid. I was walking home from school and saw a black disc rolling down the street, an old brownstones was being cleaned out and I was mystified as this “thing” bounded out of the driveway. I scooped it up and saw that it was no ordinary music LP but one of those ancient 78 discs with Thomas Edison’s picture on the label. I rushed home hid it in my drawer and I was hooked forever on collecting, and then later on selling my finds.
Q: What did you do before OR what else do you do, workwise?
A: I’ve been a puppet, a pirate a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king (I wish I would have wrote that line!) OK, I’ve been a musician, a songwriter, a wedding singer, a human rights activist, composed a rock musical and a writer. But most of all I enjoy the thrill of hunting for antiques, and gathering unusuals and curios to entertain the folk of the Upper West Side.
Q: What is your most memorable vending moment?
A: A couple of holiday seasons ago, a few of my entertainment friends from the neighborhood and I began to sing a carols at my spot. At that moment a group of special needs school kids walked into the market after a trip to Lincoln Center. I asked their teacher to sing along with us. It was really touching to hear everyone harmonizing to “Frosty the Snowman” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” on a cold and brisk Sunday.
Q: Has a celebrity ever bought something from you?
A: The market’s prime location on the Upper West Side draws many fascinating people and has made for thousands of interesting conversations. On any given Sunday you’ll find a cross-section of New York City’s rich cultural life: performers in tuxedos on the way to Lincoln Center, musicians playing at the Beacon will stop in, church-goers visiting after service, tourists taking in the museums after brunch. But probably the most famous exchange was with an Academy Award winner who stood right in front of my table and said “Howdy Tex!” (I was wearing my cowboy hat that day.) He said “Do you have a horse” and I replied “Yes, he’s parked at the curb.” A surreal conversation went on for a few minutes as I tried to place the face between chuckles.
Q: What was your most interesting sale?
A: An ornately carved oaken chair which was once a commode (these potty chairs or “thrones” were used on estates before there was dependable plumbing.) The seat part was hinged and lifted up it revealed a carved-out hole (no one wanted to sit on it once I revealed the secret.) There was also a companion piece to it for use below the hole, a 19th century chamber pot of brilliantly decorated porcelain from France. Imagine an ornate triple-size coffee cup kept near the bed in lieu of the toilette.
Q: What is your favorite market in the world?
A: I’ve been to the great Parisian flea markets and Middle Eastern bazaars but the Grand Bazaar is in the greatest city in the world. The mixture of local culture, language and art every Sunday makes this my favorite.
Q: Why are you so passionate about markets?
A: People have called me “The Peoples Vendor” because everything I sell is reasonably priced. I enjoy doing this and like making friends. Somewhere there’s an inner voice saying to me, Sell but also make it a fun experience for all. College kids come from uptown and decorate their apartments with my goodies; tourists buy curios and take them back home and brag about what they found at a NYC flea market. Many come back for a second visit years later. There’s always a lot of goodwill around my tables.
Q: When someone comes to your booth what should they ask you?
A: My best advice is be polite, don’t trash the item you are interested in buying to attempt to get the price down. Just a simple “Can you do a little bit better on the price?” does it for me. Everyone wants to try a little bargaining, it’s part of the lure of the Grand Bazaar.
Q: What guilty pleasure to you have?
A: I’m an unrepentant collector. In my home I have a great room filled with all the swag I really treasure. It’s like a museum, a huge space with exposed beams which I’ve made to look like a turn-of-the century English sitting room.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do in NYC, and why?
A: I like to walk from Manhattan neighborhood to neighborhood when I have a free day. Each one is like a tiny hamlet and you get a taste of the specific culture and ethnicity of these communities within a city. I particularly like to walk uptown starting at Times Square through the Upper West Side then over to Central Park and then back over to Columbus Ave. to 96 St. There’s some much architecture and style to take in.