The Garage Antique Flea Market Closing

Famous Chelsea Flea Market Hub To Close And A History of The Chelsea Area Flea Markets (see update)

UPDATE December 24, 2011: The flea market thankfully remains open. Dealers don’t seem to know what the future holds. Speaking to several exhibitors they have not been told how long they will remain. So keep your fingers crossed, maybe Extell will not build until market conditions improve.

According to a dealer at The Antiques Garage at 112 West 25th Street, the last stalwart of what was once a thriving antique center in Chelsea, is closing in the near future.

The Antiques Garage which has over 100 dealers selling all sorts of merchandise every Saturday and Sunday will be torn down and replaced by a hotel and condos.  The developer, Extell Realty bought the garage in 2006 for $42.7 million.  The dealers who exhibit have been told that Extell will soon begin demolition and this month is to be their last.

In the mid 1980’s the parking lots and vacant lots in Manhattan from 24th to 27th Streets, just east and west of 6th Avenue, had developed into a weekend cornucopia of junk and treasure. Lower end antique dealers, second hand junk collectors, and abandoned storage unit scavengers set up shop, providing the public with endless browsing and purchasing opportunities. You could find everything from mundane items to rare and valuable objects.

I started going when these markets opened in the early 1980’s.  Over the years I found a great four stack antique wood filing cabinet, art deco electric clocks, various nick-nacks and some rare New York City atlases. My best find was the original Renoir painting which I paid $45  for and later sold at Sotheby’s for $26.4 million dollars. Okay, that never happened, but I’m still hopeful.

As word spread in the late eighties and early nineties about bargains to be had, guidebooks, magazines and newspapers started writing up this unique area as a must see place when in New York. Celebrity sightings became frequent. By the mid nineties, thousands of visitors were coming to this  somewhat rundown, commercial neighborhood just south of the old New York flower market which once housed most of the wholesale flower dealers in New York. Decorators and professional antique hunters would get to the Chelsea flea markets around dawn armed with flashlights. As dawn would break, dealers unpacking their fresh unique items, would be quickly snatched up by those in the know.

A zoning law change in the nineties meant redevelopment was imminent.  This zoning change would spur real estate development and slowly spell the end of this area of Chelsea for the eclectic dealers and the outdoor flea markets.

The first victim was not an outdoor space. The Chelsea Antiques Building, a turn-of-the- century twelve story commercial building, was entirely chock full of interesting shops and stalls.  Around 1997, the dealers were told to vacate and it was converted to high end apartments. An apartment recently sold there for $4 million dollars.  In the late nineties the smaller parking and vacant lots were bought up by developers and weekend flea market lots were quickly disappearing.   Eventually, in 2005 the main outdoor flea market stretching from 26th to 27th street fronting the east side of Sixth Avenue was developed and the dealers relocated to West 39th street as the Hells Kitchen Flea Market.  New, large, pricey apartment buildings now stand on these Chelsea lots.

The lone remaining outdoor 25th Street flea market is a shadow of what was once an exciting district for browsers and collectors. There are some antique shops remaining in the area around 25th street, but the flea market atmosphere and life blood of this area is dwindling with this latest casualty.

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19 Responses to The Garage Antique Flea Market Closing

  1. Sheri says:

    Down the block, across 6th avenue, at 40 West 25th street, there is still the Antique Showplace. Home to over 120 dealers, this hot spot of vintage and antique jewelry, clothing and furniture is open 7 days a week. On weekends there is a cafe in the basement. Many dealers from the garage will be moving in here, and many are already here, prices are reasonable at many of the booths. A great place to browse, beat the heat in the summer and stay warm in the winter. Stop by Gallery 30 and 31 for great vintage costume jewelry.

  2. Pauline says:

    The Showplace is a much better place to socialize and/or shop! There are over 120 dealers on three floors PLUS a consignment floor. Quality vendors who are both friendly and offer merchandise for all price points, whether you are a top of the line collector or a person who appreciates the finer things in life and living on a budget. Here you can get valid help on how to start to collect and/or improve on your collection – from jewelry (costume and fine) cufflinks, art, bronzes, glass, furniture, vintage clothing to stamps etc., Visit Booth 46 on the main floor for the best selection of Vintage Costume and Silver jewelry.

  3. Waves says:

    Stop by the Showplace Antique Center. My favorite dealer is Waves (that’s me) with their vintage electrical and mechanical apparatus. (old radios, wind up phonos etc)

  4. B.P. says:

    I must say that readers of this site are now fully aware through the comments section of the “superiority” of “The Antiques Showplace” with all these self promotional comments which I have reluctantly allowed. Does anyone have anything constructive to add about the Garage closing and the neighborhood being cleansed? Probably not.

  5. AFineLyne says:

    Say it ain’t so…..I thought they dodged that bullet. In fact, when it looked like they might have to vacate last time, a few of them took space a few doors down – so at least they are situated. This is a terrible loss for our City – there’s just no where else for them to go! But if they do find a place – as a group – I hope you will post & let us know. Will try to get down there Sunday.

  6. Nancy Becker says:

    As a longtime visitor (and Manhattanite) to the host of fleas that have come and gone around 25th street, news that the garage is soon closing is truly heartbreaking. It’s yet another nail in the coffin of a scrappy, interesting New York and a shot in the arm for the “malling” of the City. I was bereft when the “Stopless” joint (read topless) closed and a mediocre bagel place rose in its place. The Starbucks’ arrival scared me and of course the demise of the big outdoor flea on Sixth ave. was a sad day indeed. No offense to the vendors at Antiques Showplace, but “affordable”?? Really? The only good thing about the showplace is its bathroom–which the assorted characters of the fleas…junk vendors, the ragtag jumble of “helpers,” drug addicts and beggars–as well as savvy buyers like me and my mates made use of. I have refused to travel to Brooklyn and its assorted (and obnoxious) collection of artisenal markets and faux fleas because Manhattan still had a more interesting assortment of hoarders, collectors and real New Yorkers (not hipsters!) but I just may have to go there to get my flea market fix not that Chelsea really does seem to be dying. Just sign me:”Depressed”

    • Brownstoner says:

      Wow, Nancy, that’s a remarkably lazy and uninformed comment. While I share your nostalgia at the demise of Billy’s Topless, your knee-jerk, Manhattan-centric rant makes you sound like an out-of-touch dinosaur. The city is an organism that is constantly changing–and that’s not a bad thing. A number of former 26th Street vendors sell at the Brooklyn Flea alongside a younger generation of pickers and collectors. The only difference is that the crowd is better looking, there’s less traffic and there’s a ton of good food to eat while browsing. There’s a reason the Brooklyn Flea has been named by a number of publications as one of the best markets in the world. Believe the hype!

      • Nancy Becker says:

        Yes $45 a piece lobster rolls…

        • Nancy Becker says:

          on second thought, I take that back. what i was actually saying was i should check out the assorted fleas in Brooklyn, not just of course the Brooklyn Flea. i shouldn’t have dissed your fleas. Just really grouchy about chelsea…my bad!

  7. Nancy Becker says:

    Oops: meant to say..”now that Chelsea really does seem to be dying.”

  8. This is really sad!
    The vendors are incredible and I will miss the space a lot! I started working on a series of portraits of some of them earlier this year but got caught up on personal stuff and couldn’t find time to go back and shoot them more. I will make sure to stop by to take some more portraits!

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  10. julie says:

    I care deeply!!! As a Chelsea-ite and NYC tour guide – as well as flea market freak – I am devastated! NYC is constantly changing and often for the better but in this case for the worse!

    Hope these vendors go to 39th Street and know that we love them & will miss them!!!

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  12. chuck says:

    In fairness to Nancy it needs to be said that when it comes to true antiques the Brooklyn Flea isn’t even on the same planet as the heyday of the Chelsea outdoor markets.

  13. its really sad to hear about it..many people will be going to miss Chelsea Flea Market a lot..

  14. Jennifer says:

    I went to the Garage today and there were signs everywhere saying their lease has been extended while they search for a new location and they won’t be closing at the end of August. Probably there’s another month left.

    P.S. The Showplace is full of expensive antiques. Small overcrowded booths are not a good place to socialize. The Garage is open and airy and full of wonderful bargains. I will miss it when it’s gone.

    • Mark says:

      The Antique Garage will remian Open and did not shut its doors for good last week as reported. This place is a staple in Chelsea and has been an important part of the NY Antique Scene for many years. It is not known how long the Garage will remain Open but the current scoop is that it will be around a little while longer. There are many wonderful dealers in the Garage that call the place “home”on the week ends. Anyone who is looking for anything from fine antiques to vintage clothing should check the place out while they still can. It is by far the best NYC Market around!

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