Arts & Culture

Bazaar attracts curious collectors, stirs up nostalgia for vintage merchandise

Urban Bazaar unites 19 vintage vendors, encourages sustainable shopping through ‘pre-loved’ purchases

Contributing Writer
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

This year’s Urban Vintage Bazaar boasted the highest turnout yet. The 19 featured vendors sold objects including toys, books and pre-worn clothing.


The eighth biannual Urban Vintage Bazaar, held in Providence’s Westminster Arcade, opened its doors to the public Saturday. Visitors were greeted by an array of curios, while Bob Dylan songs played over the general hubbub of customers and vendors, setting the scene.

Vendors featured clothes, jewelry, vinyl records and board games, showcasing works from a variety of time periods. Melissa Morales, proprietor of the retail store The Bird’s Nest, said that “vintage” is an umbrella term rather than a strict historical label. “It’s anything that has been pre-loved,” Morales said.

Event Coordinator Christine Francis handpicked the eclectic collection of stalls. Francis, who owns Carmen and Ginger, a shop with a permanent storefront in the Arcade, started the bazaar eight years ago on Brown’s campus. For the first few years, she had to “scramble for vendors,” but last year, she moved the bazaar to the Arcade and said she has found herself being “more curatorial.” This season’s iteration featured 19 vendors and one nonprofit organization.

This year, the bazaar had the highest turnout yet, Francis said, adding that the bazaar is becoming increasingly popular among vendors for its proximity to colleges, particularly the Rhode Island School of Design. “RISD students come to me with projects all the time,” Francis said.

One vendor, Jim Blackwell of Infectious Fun Toys, said, “I like to practice what I call passive sales,” defying the stereotypes of shouting and touting goods that the word “bazaar” usually conjures. Shoppers can “come in, look around, play,” he added.

Blackwell said that he spent a lot of time trading nostalgic stories with potential customers and described Infectious Fun Toys as his “favorite hobby.”

Besides Francis, few vendors sell vintage items for a living. “Starting something like this is a huge risk. This is not my primary source of income,” Morales said, adding that she works in the pharmaceutical industry.

Lillian Graham of Memory Relics supplements her income from vintage sales with freelance photography. Graham began to take an interest in vintage items after discovering old tin in her grandfather’s house and now designs recycled jewelry with it. “People should be buying vintage before they buy new in the interest of sustainability,” Graham said. “It’s one of the reasons why I get upset when people try to haggle with me at fairs like this.”

Vinyl record dealer Dean Proserpio said that people tend to undervalue creative professions in general. “They think if you follow your passion it’s not work. But it absolutely is work.”

Attendees browsed the wares, gaining inspiration from the items.

RISD senior Mengxi Yang, who studies animation, said that a video game she had seen at the bazaar was creatively inspiring.

RISD sophomore Pei Liu summed up the bazaar overall, calling it a “scavenger hunt.”

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