On Saturday, Thunderbird Salvage, a thrift and consignment store, held their fourth anniversary flea market at their storefront on Frankford Avenue and Letterly Street. More than 30 vintage vendors from across Philadelphia sold their goods at the pop-up shop.
Attendees browsed antique chinaware, vintage gold-plated watches, rare vinyl records and more, while wearing masks and social distancing.
“If you put your money into community members who are selling used stuff, if you create less trash and pollution by reusing things and not just taking them to the dump, we’re overall doing really good things,” said Steph Irwin, a 2013 film and media arts alumna and the head of marketing and events at Thunderbird Salvage.
Thunderbird Salvage originally operated out of a warehouse on North 9th near Masters streets before opening their storefront in 2016.
The space was previously the First Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, founded by Pastor Gino Jennings, according to the church’s website. The church relocated to the Olney section of Philadelphia, leaving the space vacant.
Urban developers sought to convert the space into an apartment complex, as they did with other vacancies in the area, but the church was protected by the Philadelphia Historical Society for its old age. Thunderbird Salvage purchased the property, looking to hopefully slow gentrification.
“We’re not like a corporation coming in and gentrifying a space where community members live and participate in the community,” Irwin said.
From attending local community zoning hearings, to promoting neighborhood businesses via social media, Thunderbird Salvage wants to be more than just a storefront, she added.
This event provided a chance for vendors to continue business, which has been greatly limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of vintage and antique vendors are hurting right now because a lot of the spaces they normally sell in are indoors,” Irwin said. “This is our largest one yet. It’s really blown up this year, especially it being an outdoor event.”
Some vendors have been participating for all four years, and for others, it was their first time, she added.
“They are all really great souls, really positive people, always so grateful and thankful,” Irwin said.
Amy Larrimore, a resident of the Frankford-Northwood neighborhood, was a new vendor, and owns her own salvage company called Requiem Salvage Co, selling architectural salvage, antiques and Victorian pieces.
“I shop at Thunderbird,” Larrimore said. “It’s a good spot. Anybody doing salvage, I support. Let’s keep it out of the landfill.”
While affordability is an appealing feature of vintage flea markets, shoppers can also be more environmentally conscious.
“I like to save money,” said Omolara Ayodeji, 21, of West Philadelphia. “[Flea markets] reduce my carbon footprint because it’s recycling. More people are finding ways to be more sustainable. I usually find something that has a lot of meaning when I go to flea markets.”
Despite the pandemic, the shop still hopes to serve the community.
“We’re definitely going to do [more] crazier, weirder, awesome things,” Irwin said. “We’re never going to give up on that. Trying to be different, involve our community, and just [do] the best for them.”