leslieville flea
Photography courtesy of Instagram/@carosanchezjewellery.

What to Expect From Leslieville Flea’s Week-Long Instagram Takeover

The beloved Toronto event is going digital to connect customers with its vendors just in time for Mother's Day.

As many businesses have strengthened their presence online in the last several weeks, community gatherings like flea markets and multi-vendor pop-ups are devising ways to keep their fans engaged—and maybe even reach a whole new bevy of customers as well. East end Toronto favourite, Leslieville Flea, will dip into the world of e-commerce for the first time from May 3rd to the 10th to host a Mother’s Day-focused takeover, with vendors hosting informational sessions to showcase their wares; jewellery brands Black Dahlia and Caro Sanchez and footwear label Avarcas are just some of the goodies you’ll find. “I think that being isolated and forced to stay home in our communities has highlighted just how important it is to support these businesses and people who live in our community,” says Flea co-founder, Christine Roberts. Read on to find out more from Roberts about what you can expect from the Flea’s new virtual venture, and why they’ll continue with online efforts after social distancing is over.

How did you come up with the idea to host the virtual Flea?

When our in-person markets were cancelled, we were really disappointed. We considered going online on our website but it was really difficult to build the site and wasn’t the right platform to properly showcase our vendors. We decided that since we already have a captive audience of over 7,000 on Instagram and our followers are massively engaged and loyal, it was the perfect medium to host this market. Our main goal always has been, and especially now, to support our vendors and provide a space where they can sell their unique handcrafted and vintage goods.

What can people expect when they tune in over the week?

Vendors will be taking over our stories for two hours at a time. There will be about three vendors each day that will go onto our stories and tell people a little bit about themselves, and their products. There will be new vendors each day doing the takeover so every day is a new group with new goods to browse, and it’s an exclusive, hand-picked lineup specially chosen for this market. Visitors to the virtual market can shop from skincare products, handcrafted candles, jewellery, vintage items like gorgeous barware and home decor pieces, upcycled goods, crafted hot sauces from locally-sourced ingredients, plants, ready-to-go soups and cookie mixes in jars, custom-made stationery, eco-conscious sandals, and so much more. The beauty of shopping this virtual market is that you can connect with our vendors like you would at our in-person markets, and find out all about them and how or where they get their products from. The stories of where vintage wares came from are always fascinating. One of our vendors, Shelley of She Sells Sanctuary, travels to Nepal for the winter months to live there and source fair trade and ethically-made cashmere blankets. She meets and hires the women to make them, and then brings them back to sell here. They are honestly the most beautiful blankets I’ve seen and make the most special gift.

Do you see the Flea continuing to have more of a digital presence even after social distancing has ended?

We have been overwhelmed by the positive response to this virtual market idea and will definitely maintain a stronger online presence even after they social distancing measures have been lifted. This platform will enable us to reach people who live too far away to visit in person, and also to feature vendors who are in other parts of Canada. We’ve seen this is the future of retail for some time and we feel like this will enable us to engage with a much broader audience in a new way for us. While we are really missing our community and the fun of our in-person markets, we are very excited about this new venture.

Why are you passionate about running the Flea?

Both Brigid [Elmy] and I are very passionate about shopping local, shopping small and shopping with a conscience. It’s better for our environment to buy local or vintage; you can find unique pieces with better quality by shopping vintage and locally handcrafted—just look at how a vintage piece is made and you cannot deny that they just do not make things this way anymore; the only exception to that is if you can find a local artisan who is making quality goods. Plus, it is so much more cost-effective; vintage items are priced so well, and buying directly from our handcrafted vendors means you save money. And when you buy from a vendor at our markets, the money goes straight to the person who has searched for and restored that vintage item, or crafted a piece with care themselves. Brigid and I could talk for hours about the pleasure of finding that perfect item at the market—there is nothing like the thrill of finding something so special and unique that it will be treasured for years.