The Santa Barbara Flea Market at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, sometimes called the “swap meet,” is reopening today after months of closure.
Hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Shoppers can expect more than 100 vendors with lots of items to pick through.
“There’s quite a variety of things that appear, but you never know until you get there,” Sue Adams, the owner and promoter of the flea market, told the News-Press.
She also owns the Ventura Flea Market, which usually runs Wednesdays, but COVID-19 testing at the Ventura County Fairgrounds has delayed that market’s reopening.
At Earl Warren, booths will be spaced out, and masks are required. Vendors will also have gloves and hand sanitizer.
“Vendors are very excited because it’s the only market around. Everything else is closed except for markets far away,” Ms. Adams said.
Some booths will be open today that have never ventured to the Santa Barbara Flea Market. There will be antiques dealers, produce, flowers and a popular plant booth.
Buyers should bring cash, as not every vendor has a credit card system.
Elizabeth Stewart, a Santa Barbara appraiser and author, gave her advice for shoppers.
“All flea markets are hidden gems because you just don’t know,” she told the News-Press.
When she gets there, she stops and waits for a sense of energy to guide her to the right finds.
“There’s so much, so you can’t have any sort of plan of attack,” said Dr. Stewart, whose “Ask the Gold Digger” column appears Mondays in the News-Press.
The appraiser recommends shoppers try to ignore the environment, as real treasures can be found beside cheap goods.
“The context will impact your view of an item greatly,” Dr. Stewart said. “Think to yourself: If I saw this in any other environment, would I pay this price?”
Dr. Stewart explained she tries to picture the piece in other settings and doesn’t make assumptions based upon the sellers’ appearances. She noted one of her most knowledgeable fine art teachers dressed like lumberjack and chewed tobacco.
She tries to avoid looking up an item on her phone as she shops. If she does, she makes sure the sellers can’t see her.
And she trusts her eye more than Google’s as she shops.
“If you rely on what other people say as far as value, you’ll miss a piece. You’re responding on a different level than intellect,” Dr. Stewart said.
One of her and her guests’ favorite pieces is a landscape painting made by a child. She bought it for its beauty, not knowing a kid had painted it, but loves it despite its low monetary value.
Another mistake she sees people make is during the bartering process. She doesn’t think it’s smart to point out flaws first or throw out a lowball offer.
“They don’t want to sell something to someone who doesn’t care,” Dr. Stewart said. “You start painting a picture of a respectful place for that object.”
When Dr. Stewart approaches a vendor, she tries to describe why she’s interested in a piece and asks about its price. She usually counters a bit lower than she’s willing to pay to leave space for further negotiation.
But if a seller prices an item way lower than its value, she said not to be harsh.
And, at the end of a flea market, sellers may drop prices. But Dr. Stewart said not to hold onto hope that your favorite find will still be available at the end of the day.
“Whenever I see a flea market, I stop.”