Beginner's Guide to Brimfield
Brimfield is a magical little (ok, not little at all) flea market in Massachusetts that attracts people from all over the country, and for good reason, it's kind of a mecca for hidden treasures. If you haven't been, I highly recommend taking the trip during one of the three weeks they are open in the summer (the first being next week - May 9 - 14th). But I will say, it can be a tad overwhelming to a newbie. And when I say a tad, I mean totally overwhelming.
There are millions (thousands?) of people meandering about (and in the road), parking can be a bit of challenge and the options for vendors is almost TOO wonderful. But don't fret, going in with a plan of attack helps big time, and I'm hear to make sure that plan is buttoned up before you head on your way.
Feeling anxious before you even get in car to head to Brimfield? I hear you. Two surprising things about yours truly - 1. I'm not really a huge fan of crowds (supermarkets on Sunday are my worst nightmare, next to Coachella that is) and 2. Even though I'm a stylist, meaning props are my bread and butter, I HATE clutter. But I think it's why I've always had a more laid back, natural approach to styling - over-styling with loads of stuff makes my anxiety levels tick up. So seeing acres and acres of STUFF makes me think to myself "where the heck would I store anything I buy?!" - I know that sounds crazy, but it brings me to my first tip - so at least it's a good transition.
GO IN WITH A STRATEGY:
I like to have a list of things I am looking for or at least an idea of things to look for. Perhaps vintage ski gear for our little spot in Vermont, or some antique spoons for styling, some items I need for an upcoming shoot or maybe an old portrait to hang in a room to add character - you get the idea. Going in with your must-haves makes it easier to come up with a game plan on how to tackle the day.
Check out the Brimfield App to help plan before you go, and find vendors you know you want to visit (stay tuned for a few of my favorites below).
PlAN YOUR APPROACH TO PARKING:
Driving into Brimfield (the town) feels like you are arriving to an adult amusement park. You just want to jump out and get to exploring ASAP. My advice is to wait until you pass the tents so you KNOW you are there. Otherwise, you could walk for miles. Also, be prepared to pay about $10 for the lots. Obviously, the earlier you arrive, the better. I personally like to park at the far end of things so I can walk up one side, down through the other side and then back to my car. But that's just me.
LEARN THE LAY OF THE LAND:
Before you go, become besties with this Brimfield Map. You'll be able to get a feel for parking, where the shopping actually starts (the church is a good landmark), and even see where you can get access to internet. Refreshments don't seem to be marked on this map, but you won't be able to miss them - they are smack dab in the middle. This map is prettier, and also groups out the sections with illustrations, so I'm pretty fond of it. Here's a good breakdown of the areas from Yankee Magazine:
The Meadows: Midcentury and industrial finds
Quaker Acres: Shabby-chic, cottage, vintage
Hertan’s: Imported linens, country furnishings
Midway: Old-time canoes and boats, camp-style goods
Shelton’s: Exotica, including Buddhas, ropes of beads, etc.
Mahogany Ridge: Retro jewelry, vintage clothing
Central Park: glassware, textiles, antique silverware
This makes me sound like your mom, but it's so important to wear comfortable clothes when hitting the market (I'm going to start calling Brimfield THE market like folks call NYC THE city - ok? Good). Watch the weather, it is New England after all, and you never know what she might bring. We went in May one year, and I was sweating the entire time. I SO wish I brought a hat and sunscreen. My Irish skin did not fair well. Also, make sure to put on your comfy shoes, and leave the cute wedges for your instagram pic.
Hey, we all do it.
CASH IS KING:
There are so may vendors who will accept cards nowadays, and ATMS are available - but you will be able to make better deals if you have cash ready to go. It will also help you stick to a budget, so that's a definite win.
Don't be shy, vendors expect you to haggle a bit. Sure it's a bit awkward at first, but by the end of the day, you'll be closing deals left and right.
HAVE VENDORS HOLD ITEMS:
No need to lug all your stuff all over all day long. Most vendors will happily hold your items until the end of the day. That way you can either drive up (helpful to have a friend here - because traffic can get a little looney) or fetch your finds at one time. Carts or totes come in handy. And obviously an SUV is a must!
The beauty of Brimfield is it isn't going anywhere. Can't make it in May? You still have July and September. Can't make it this year? Well, I guarantee it will be waiting for you next year. Last year I drove up in September, got stuck on a conference call the second I arrived, and had to turn my butt around back to Rhody. Was I bummed? Of course. But just like that, it's market time again.
MUST VISIT VENDORS
I would love to see your Brimfield finds, so tag me in your stories or grams so I can follow along. I'm going to try to sneak up there with Erin sometime that week - so perhaps we can even meet up (you can find me near any puppy)! Happy shopping!