Editor's Note: PayPal is a proud sponsor of Artists & Fleas. Learn more at artistsandfleas.com
Home to more than 50 rotating vendors and makers selling art, fashion, collectibles and vintage wares, the Artists & Fleas market is a microcosm of retail’s reopening and an ideal way to rediscover what a post-pandemic in-person shopping experience feels like. The market, located in an airy and spacious warehouse in New York City’s trendy Williamsburg neighborhood, offers a little bit of everything for the shopper who wants quality, unique finds and is looking to support small, local businesses.
Artists & Fleas was created by the husband-and-wife duo Amy Abrams and Ronen Glimer in 2003 as a place for makers, creators and entrepreneurs to congregate, support each other and showcase their products.
“Markets historically have been a place of experimentation, innovation, and a place where trends are born,” Ronen said.
Shoppers browse goods as they wander the Artists & Fleas market.
Currently, Artists & Fleas vendors are setting new trends in socially conscious fashion, hand-felted home goods and at-home spa treatments. To help vendors sell and modernize, Amy and Ronen worked with PayPal and vendors to install PayPal QR Code1 payment systems throughout the market.
Like many of the new trends set by vendors at Artists & Fleas, Amy and Ronen expect QR codes will become a standard part of in-person shopping because of the ease, speed and security of payments.
PayPal recently spoke with five Artists & Fleas vendors about their businesses and the trends they’re setting.
Ammar Belal, One432
Ammar Belal founded One432 with a mission to improve the fashion industry. “We’re a company that advocates for a philosophy of equality, responsibility and giving back within the fashion industry,” Ammar said.
Amar Belal of One432.
He does this by donating 50% of the shop’s net profits to the women artisans who make his products and he funds children’s education sponsorships in Pakistan.
One432 sells handmade basics, like sweatshirts and hoodies and is best known for their Jutti shoes—a modern take on a 400-year-old style of leather shoes from Punjab, India. Jutti shoes don’t have a right or left sole, they are perfectly symmetrical and mold to the shape of your foot.
One432 customers can log on to the brand’s website and see exactly how much money has been donated to the artisans and education funds, thanks to their purchases. “This type of transparency has never existed before,” he added.
Gina Schütz, Vamos Al Grano
According to Gina Schütz, you can’t find a “true cup” of Puerto Rican coffee in New York City. Unless, of course, you’ve visited her bakery and coffee shop Vamos Al Grano at Artists & Fleas.
Gina Schütz of Vamos Al Grano.
Gina opened Vamos Al Grano to bring Puerto Rican culture to a wider audience. Customers can buy pastries like besitos de coco, pan sobao, and guava cookies, as well as tea, chocolate and of course, “mucho, mucho café.”
As the world reopens again—and more visitors stop by Artists & Fleas—Gina's excited to share Puerto Rico's food and culture with even more people. One small way of doing so? Photos of Puerto Rican artists and athletes decorate the counter.
Her business mantra, translated from Spanish, is all about “putting your seed [out] into the world,” she said.
“It means you give a little piece of yourself to be known, and then keep growing it.”
Michelle Fleet, Suri & Caya
Michelle Fleet is a fan of fuzz. She describes her company, Suri & Caya, as selling “fiber art,” which includes felted blankets, dolls, bags and hats. All of Michelle’s products are made from organic fibers, alpaca fleece, Merino or Corrida wool, camel fur or raw silk.
Michelle Fleet of Suri & Caya.
Michelle decided to become an entrepreneur after retiring from dance and started selling at Artists & Fleas in October 2020.
“I’ve met so many [other vendors] who have helped me along the way. I’ve discovered new designers. I’ve learned from them. I’ve been inspired by them,” she said. “The energy is beautiful here.”
Seeing more customers in person has been an exciting part of Michelle’s business journey, as so many of her sales rely on touch and people being able to experience firsthand just how soft and comforting her goods are.
“When you step up to my space, you get a feeling,” she said. “It calms you.”
Kevin Anthony, PopTrain Records
If you’re looking for the perfect shopping soundtrack, just ask Kevin Anthony. Kevin is the Artists & Fleas resident DJ and owner of PopTrain Records, which sells records, cassettes, CDs and hard-to-find pop culture T-shirts.
Kevin Anthony of PopTrain Records.
Before he opened PopTrain, Kevin worked at Eat Records, another vinyl record seller at the Artists & Fleas location in Williamsburg. When the flea market opened its SoHo location, Kevin became the location's main music manager. Both experiences inspired Kevin to start selling at the market himself.
Adding PayPal QR codes as a payment method has helped Kevin stay on top of trends and track customer feedback in real time.
When a customer makes a purchase, they can add a specific note about what they bought. It allows Kevin to keep track of his most popular items. “As a record store, we are considered old school in that we don’t like change,” Kevin said. But PayPal’s QR Code has “allowed us flexibility to grow our business.”
Renée Harris, i.e. Spa Indulgences
Renée Harris was inspired to start her natural bath product company, i.e. Spa Indulgences, after a long career as an executive working in higher education. She found that she only went to the spa on special occasions, and when she did, it was an expensive endeavor.
A customer pays Renée Harris of i.e. Spa Indulgences by scanning a PayPal QR Code.
“In living such a busy and stressful lifestyle for so long, I put myself on the back burner,” she states on her website. So, baked into i.e.’s mission is the goal of giving customers a chance to pamper themselves on a budget. It’s been a success.
At Artists & Fleas, Renée was able to find a home for her business, selling soaps, scented candles and massage oils, all made of organic ingredients and essential oils. In doing so, she also found a sense of community.
“I liken it to when I was a little girl, visiting mom and pop stores,” Renée said. “You get that feeling of connection that made you want to come back.”
1Merchant and Customer must have the PayPal app and account to use PayPal QR Code.