The first Saturday of each month, there’s an artsy party on the street.
A solid block of Midtown Harrisburg closes and, instead of cars whizzing by, there are people and tents and no end of lovely, handcrafted goods.
It’s the HBG Flea.
Founders Mary Imgrund and Meghan Jones brought home the idea of marrying the reliable appeal of a flea market with the flair of an arts festival after witnessing other artsy markets in places like Brooklyn, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
“It went from ‘this is something I wish was in Harrisburg’ to ‘we could make this happen in Harrisburg,’” said Imgrund.
In spring 2015, Imgrund had just graduated from Penn State Harrisburg and Jones, whose graduation was still a year away (the pair met in the English program there) went to revisit the Brooklyn Flea, the bazaar behemoth that operates markets every weekend in New York.
They both saw the flea market as a perfect means to promote local artists and enable visitors to shop locally by showcasing the wealth of creators—crafters, snack-makers, soapers and more—to be found throughout Harrisburg.
Jones, who is into upcycling, and Imgrund, who makes art and jewelry, launched HBG Flea in November, its best-of-both-world qualities mirrored in the city itself.
Harrisburg, Imgrund observes, has the benefits of a city and the feel of a small town, and HBG Flea was created to contribute to and harness the artistic energy that circulates here. Every market has a featured charity as well, with some proceeds having benefited the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, Caitlin’s Smiles and other nonprofit organizations.
The Fun One
Imgrund and Jones started out determining which vendors they would accept and building the website. The reality of their undertaking really took shape when they connected with John Traynor at Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center (H*MAC) about space. They then plunged into a flurry of contacting and lining up vendors.
“We’re really focused on making sure that the vendors have a good time,” said Imgrund.
HBG Flea is intimate, expansive without being overwhelming. Coffee, candles, succulents, spices, tiny taxidermied creatures—seeing what so many area creators have made by hand, repurposed or curated—puts into perspective what constitutes a “gift.” HBG Flea itself feels like a thoughtful reminder of what exists between close friends—in this case, between market-goers and the city.
The June market was Thomas Weaver’s first as a vendor. He had manned a stand at previous installments of HBG Flea for Gamut Theatre, where he is associate artistic director, and had been coming to the market as a visitor since its first iteration last November.
“It’s an empowering thing, seeing so many local artists here,” said Weaver, and that inspired him to bring his hobby—constructing cigar box guitars—into a market for the first time.
Elsewhere in the market was Sage and Ash, a company that hits farmers markets and conventions with their essences, oils, balms and other botanical goods while maintaining space at the Artisan Cooperative and Gallery in Williamsport.
“We do several flea markets,” said Ingrid Callenberger, an herbalist who co-owns Sage and Ash with April Line, a formulator, “but this is the fun one.”
Among the first vendors to get excited about HBG Flea was Amanda Leilani, whose raw crystal jewelry Imgrund and Jones both love. They were also overjoyed to bring Mixology8 on as a vendor, a vintage records retailer that travels to antique malls and marketplaces. Vendors heartily reciprocated enthusiasm for HBG Flea, and that spread from the first market on.
It now is only a few months away from their first anniversary, and Imgrund and Jones no longer have to solicit applications for vendors—they can focus on organizing and expanding the market.
They hope to see HBG Flea grow to several times a month, enabling some of those markets to be themed around different kinds of vendors—vintage goods, food, art, etc.
“We want to grow carefully,” said Imgrund, retaining quality as they scale up.
There have been challenges, like finding out how many permits are involved and reckoning with cars parked overnight on the 1100-block of N. 3rd Street, where they hold the market (in seasonable weather, that is—the market is in H*MAC’s Capitol Ballroom otherwise). That they could pull this all together is a powerful thing for two 20-somethings (Imgrund is 24; Jones is 22), right out of college.
It was at the first market that Imgrund reflected on how happy she and Jones said they would be with 20 vendors—as they looked out over their market and saw about 50.
“I want people to know,” said Imgrund, “that doing something that you’re passionate about is an option.”
The next HBG Flea will be held on Aug. 6 in the 1100-block of N. 3rd Street, Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.hbgflea.com.
Author: Kari Larsen