NJ sisters foster community with Flower Power Flea Market

"At the event last year we kind of left an open field in front of the bus by the food area. People started dancing in that field and, like, frolicking in the meadow at our Flower Power Flea Market. Then I saw someone was having a picnic and there were a bunch of dogs everywhere… it was so cool."

Coffee, vegan food, vinyl, pet adoptions, vintage clothing, crafts… is this looking like a list of your favorite things? If that’s the case, we highly suggest heading to Pompton Lakes this Sunday (May 7) for the Flower Power Flea Market. 

The creation of sisters Izzy and Lauren Filippini, Flower Power Flea Market (FPFM) is an accessible, inclusive event that revolves around local artists, businesses and organizations, with an eye towards fostering community. Informally speaking, this “flea” is the ultimate hang, featuring a collection of wonderful, passionate folks coming together to share what they love and have a groovy time in a unique setting.

Small business owners in the jewelry/craft and vegan baked goods spaces, the Filippini sisters have been vendors at many a market or festival—with mixed results. Lauren, owner of Beaded Boho (handmade jewelry and accessories) explains how one particularly dreadful event provided the impetus for the sisters to create their own market: “We’ve done events where we felt like the people running the market did not care about any of the vendors; it was 100% a money grab. We were actually sitting at one on a really rainy, crappy day; we weren’t selling anything and we were so bored and we’re like, ‘Why don’t we just put together our own market?’ We know people will come, let’s do it the way we want it to be.”

Originally named “Flower Power Flea Market and Festival,” the latter portion—though no longer part of the official moniker—is quite apt when describing the Flower Power experience. While the “all-are-welcome” vibe of a flea is maintained, there is a liveliness at this market that is much more akin to a festival. Unlike your traditional fleas (Golden Nugget, Englishtown, etc.) that are typically massive, open year-round and offer a multitude of vendors of seemingly every variety, FPFM (as of now) only has two or three events per year and is comprised of a curated list of vendors that appeal to a more specific, like-minded community. 

Atmosphere is paramount at Flower Power Flea Market and selecting complementary vendors that can sell their wares in harmony, while also providing patrons a fulfilling experience, is an intricate and time-consuming task. Now into their second year of operation, the Filippini sisters are somewhat accustomed to being flooded by applications ahead of each event; although turning businesses away is something they’ve yet to get used to. Izzy, owner of Lazy Iris Cookie Co. (vegan, organic, nut/soy-free baked treats), admits that selecting applicants may be the most arduous element of preparations and explains how past events influence FPFM’s selection process: “I’ve been a vendor at markets where there were three vegan cookie vendors. We all would do badly, you know? We wanted a market where everyone would be successful because, for us, it’s all about highlighting the really cool businesses in our area.

“We collect applications from anyone who wants to apply for about a month and a half. Then we spend days and days and days sorting through them. We make categories like ]people who make candles,’ or ‘people who make soaps,’ all that kind of stuff. We have a number we hit for all of those categories—we don’t want overlap; we want everyone to be able to sell and not take away from each other.”

Capping the amount of vendors per category, while still offering an array of choices for market-goers is a challenge; so is staying on-brand. “As much as it sucks to reject people, we want to make sure there is a cohesive vibe between everybody; like a theme” Izzy says. “For example, we have a lot of crystal people who apply, but I don’t know much about witchcraft and that’s not necessarily what we’re trying to do. We have a couple of witchy vendors because there is some [commonality] with the Flower Power theme, but there are other markets where that’s more suitable for sure. We both went to school for marketing and communications, so [we know the importance] of theming and attracting an audience that will want to buy what people are selling.”

So who exactly is an ideal fit to table at FPFM? After a quick scroll through the festival’s vendor list you’ll likely notice a trend of small businesses run by (but not limited to) young, industrious creatives who embody positivity and warmth—these qualities emanate from the crafts, food and clothes they make/sell. There are also non-profit organizations on the list, some of which will be vending at FPFM for the first time. “We have TRIP (Trans Resource & Information Project), which is a trans healthcare advocacy organization vending with us this year,” Izzy explains. “We’re also really excited to welcome Eleventh Hour Rescue (animal rescue based in Morris County)—they’re going to have cats for adoption at the event.” 

Thus far, FPFM has had three events—a spring and fall market last year, and a Valentine’s pop-up market in February—all of which were a great success for the Filippinis and vendors alike. Naturally, the months of planning and then coordinating on market day can be stressful, but the sisters find the process and the institution they’ve built incredibly rewarding—perhaps even more so because it’s a true family affair. 

“We should mention that FPFM is a whole family operation,” Izzy says. “We have an older sister who’s a vendor, she sells used books—Book Fair Trade. She’s always a lot of help. Then my boyfriend, my mother-in-law and our cousins help run the ticket booth.”

From an outsider’s perspective, the opportunity to promote one’s business, network and even make a little extra money would all be logical reasons for organizing an event like FPFM—but dollars and cents evidently have little to do with the Filippini sisters’ motivation.

“After the [inaugural market], we emailed all of our vendors an anonymous form asking what we could have done better. Every single one, around 65 people, responded, ‘You couldn’t have done anything better, this was so much fun!’” Lauren says. “That made me feel so good because we don’t make money doing this, that’s not why we started it. We basically made [Flower Power Flea Market] because we wanted a fun space.” 

When asked if they find any time to enjoy or reflect on the magnitude of what they’ve pulled off during the events, the sisters acknowledge that they’ve both had their moments. 

“I was very grumpy for the first market because I was so stressed out,” Lauren says. “But after we did the second one and we had our mini market, then it was like, ‘OK, we’re doing this. This is happening.’ I think when everyone is set up and we put the music on… my favorite moment is when that first song plays because everything is settled down, everyone is OK and we’re off to a great day.”

“My [moment] is a little emo,” Izzy says. “At the event last year we kind of left an open field in front of the bus by the food area. People started dancing in that field and, like, frolicking in the meadow at our Flower Power Flea Market. Then I saw someone was having a picnic and there were a bunch of dogs everywhere… it was so cool. Just seeing all of those people having the best day was amazing.”

Flower Power Flea Market is this Sunday (5/7) from 12-5PM @ 15 Perrin Ave,, Pompton Lakes, NJ. For more info visit FPFM’s website or Instagram