Joel Maffei, co-founder/director of Pacific Flea, brings quality vendors, artists and musical acts to the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood on second Saturdays, April-October. The next market is September 10 and the final market October 8.
How did you become involved with Pacific Flea?
I was working for nextdoor.com (“Facebook for neighbors”) and found out Stuart Metrick was my neighbor. He posted about a flea market on his property so I walked over. (I live 2 blocks away). I met him and his late wife, Michelle, who was an interior designer, and they were selling antiques from their home—they have a huge collection and a crazy house they had renovated—it is a mix of antique and modern, thoughtfully arranged and designed, a lot of art pieces. He is an artist himself, and Michelle had an amazing eye for design. As life-long collectors, they used to own an antique shop and were basically having a garage sale in the three lots in front of the veteran’s hall next to their house. I really liked them and said, “Do you want to do something bigger?” and offered my marketing services, and we became friends. As a community organizer, I was looking to do something cool in an area that doesn’t have much going on. It was a huge space, and I was looking around. So I wrote him my idea of what it could be, he already had the name— and we could incorporate live music, more vendors, and be a destination.
And how did that build?
I’m so grateful to Stuart. He is the one with the property, antiques and he let me inject ideas. He is a social guy and is all about bringing people together. We are on the same page. It’s a passion project for the neighborhood. In the first year, we were finding our legs. We started it weekly, then went with monthly which made it a draw, then added bands then the DJ and that was the hit. People love to bring their friends and it is unlike anything downtown, a different vibe. We will have live graffiti and cool murals. We were trying to think outside the box. It organically became what it is now: a sick backyard block party with vendors. Speaking of vendors, our third partner, Brittany Graziosi, selects and organizes all of our vendors.
“Beats, Eats, Antiques?”
Yep we have a resident DJ: “Obviously Avi,” we grew up together, I knew him. He has DJ’d every flea. He is essential! He plays everything from funk, soul, hip-hop, he makes it work.
We will have him DJ all day and then also have like 3 bands playing between. All local groups. The crowd is so mixed, from neighborhood folks, to Hoboken folks, and my job is there as a sort of MC. We are on a tight budget, so we are BYO, which people love. Then we have food trucks: all the JC faves- Mordi’s, Mi Casa, Garden Steaks, House of Gains. We try to make sure there is variety: two savory and two sweet. Like we had Cholita Paleta, JC and Milk Sugar Love and Garden Steaks and House of Gains together recently. We have a lounging area in the middle. And then we have antiques and vendors.
How do you curate your vendors and who does well?
We have about 15-20 every market. Stuart already has an amazing collection of antiques, his taste is vintage, industrial. We get people that are creative and selling antique, vintage, craft, or handmade. In the beginning, it was tough! We now get a lot of interest. They need a vendor license. It is great for local businesses to get their name out and be guaranteed traffic. We have a couple that are there every market: Taproot Organics, All For You Vintage, Lost and Found, Nuda, Pop’s Basement, which is right up our alley: cameras, guitars. Photography does well. People want antiques, vintage and records. It’s an artistic crowd. If somebody does something really well, and there is a theme and the price point is good, it attracts more people. Our vendors are successful that find a niche and stick to it.
What has been interesting about doing this in Bergen-Lafayette?
I love downtown and think there are a lot of great things that came with the influx of money and also some bad things. I don’t want my neighborhood to turn to it. I like that it is a mix of artists, working and middle-class people and people who are new. It is at a sweet spot. This was an amazing peacemaking opportunity, bringing something fun to a neighborhood that needed it, and it feels organic and has grown. I like the support that we have gotten. It is like getting to throw the party you want once a month. We are family friendly, dog-friendly, and people hang out for the day, five or six hours, and get to know your neighbors. Bike JC is doing bike valet now. That was popular at the last one. It’s 15-minute walk from light rail. Or, for first time LYFT users, there is a free code: PACFLEA.
You’re a JC native right? And what else do you do?
I grew up in Greenville: Neptune Ave, then over on West Side. I work for the City of New York. I am on the board of the Morris Canal CDC in JC, which helps with development. That is how I got my start in this community stuff.
What is on the horizon for PacFlea?
We want to expand and host more events. We are doing a screening of a movie, Sept 1st with a projector, and have hosted community potlucks. We want to just keep growing the market and having more people learn about it, to support the artist community.
Is this the future shopping experience?
Ha! I have never thought about that. I think it would be great. The Liberty Science center was open after dark recently, with DJ, a bar and exhibits open for adults. It was so cool, because it was like you are providing multiple experiences in one. I think that is one of the things we are trying to do…
You can follow Joel on Twitter @NemoBeatz
[gmap height=”250px”]149 Pacific Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07304[/gmap]
Pacific Flea – 149 Pacific Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07304