On Insider Shopping and How Tea Solves Everything With the Boss at Eastside Flea

It’s now difficult to imagine Vancouver without the Eastside Flea. Although it has seen some fluctuation over the years – from its early pop-up days at the Wise Hall and year-plus stint on Main Street to its current home in the Eastside Warehouse on Malkin Avenue – we’ve come to love the modern bazaar for its locally made and thrifted goods, tasty food, solid parties and passionate people like the Flea’s General Manager, Alberta Randall. Somehow, we caught up with her during the market’s busy season to talk about, among other things, her journey so far…

What is your neighbourhood and what makes it home? Hastings-Sunrise! I’ve lived there for three years and I have a hard time imagining myself anywhere else in Vancouver. I love the quiet streets and the parks, and the proximity to the cauliflower wings at What’s Up Hotdog?

Your neighbourhood haunt? Far Out Coffee Post and Red Cat Records are my typical Sunday stops.

Your favourite rainy day activity? Listening to records and working on whatever craft project I’m trying to master. Right now it’s knitting and it’s HARD but I think I’m getting the hang of it. I also love to drive out to MOA at UBC on a rainy weekend day, or catch a movie at the Rio.

Your favourite meal in Vancouver? Najib’s Special at Nuba. Today, tomorrow, forever.

The new Vancouver restaurant that you most want to try? I can’t wait to check out Soil on Main Street, from the folks behind Blue Heron Creamery (the best vegan cheese in maybe the whole world).

Your drink of choice? I’m a kombucha gal. I especially love Standard because they have the best flavours and it’s all locally made.

Your uniform of choice? All vintage, all the time.

The last item you splurged on? Really good boots for these cold and rainy days ahead. Worth every penny.

The item of no significant monetary value that you will never give up? Too many to list; I’m a very sentimental gal. Right now I’m particularly attached to this handmade mug I thrifted a while back. It fits perfectly in my hands and I’d be unreasonably upset if something were to happen to it.

Your best thrift/flea find? At this stage 80% of my belongings are thrifted, handmade, or found at the Flea. It would be impossible to pick the “best” one, but I just thrifted an incredible 5′ x 9′ vintage wool rug for $15, so that’s my current chart topper!

The Vancouver institution that no longer exists that you miss most? The Foundation. I don’t eat cheese anymore but I still dream of those damn nachos.

What music do you currently have on heavy rotation? I can’t get enough of Marisa Anderson’s experimental guitar records, Jennifer Castle for these rainy days, Kikagaku Moyo if I’m feeling groovy, and the classics on vinyl at home in the evenings. I also love to tune in to No Fun Radio during the day in the office – my favourite shows are Ex Fan Des Sixties and Blue Bayou. I scour the archives for old episodes I haven’t heard yet.

Your favourite Vancouver venue? I love the China Cloud and Toast Collective for a cozy, intimate show, the Fox if I’m in the mood to dance, and Malkin bowl for big outdoor shows in the summer (rain or shine).

What is your biggest weakness? Probably setting healthy boundaries for myself, or vegan doughnuts from Cartem’s. It’s a toss up.

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What is your “go to” for an instant pick me up? A strong cup of tea. My very British Grandmother lived with us throughout my teenage years and tea was her solution for just about everything (I can confirm that it usually works).

What do you do to unwind? Most days I make a cup of tea and take it for a walk around my neighbourhood after work. If I’m wound extra tight then I head straight to the bath.

What is your educational background? I did one year at UBC straight out of high school, but quickly realized University wasn’t for me. I love the idea of going back to school when I’m older and have a few more things figured out (hopefully), and I would love to learn a trade some day! My folks are hippies who spent a lot of time travelling and didn’t go back to school until they were in their mid-late twenties, so I’ve never felt much pressure to seek out a traditional education.

The ESF has expanded a lot since its humble beginnings…where do you want to take the concept next? We go where the community tells us to! Right now our community is telling us they need affordable studio space, so we’re working hard to make that happen! I think the expansion to Eastside Studios was a great step for the Flea, as we’re already connected with so many local makers and creatives through the market, so it feels natural to also provide studio space for them.

What do you look for in an ESF vendor? The easy answer is we look for locally handmade goods, well curated vintage and collectibles, and artisanal foods, but really it’s so much more involved than that. We take so many factors into consideration when we’re reviewing applications! Photos, price point, demographic, dates, market display… The list is exhaustive, but it helps us to ensure that each and every vendor we bring on board is set up for success. We go back and forth, talk it over as a team, offer support and guidance for folks who are new to the game, make suggestions, and do everything we can to make the experience positive. We’re passionate about the curation of the market and we try so, so hard to make it fresh and new and fun every single time, while still keeping with the classic elements that everyone has come to know and love.

What has been your biggest challenge with the ESF so far? We’ve had a big year with a lot of growth and change, and with that has come some big challenges. Making the decision to move the Flea to Eastside Studios was terrifying and exciting, and it’s been really incredible to see the positive impacts of that. We’re currently in the midst of our busiest market season to date, and it feels great to know we made the right decision for the Flea and the businesses who vend with us.

You are a big champion for women creatives. What three women are you most inspired by? I think finding three million women to list would be easier than picking just three, but here goes! I’m inspired by my friend Shanique (Softieshan), a local DJ who is working so hard to bring inclusivity to the party scene, and brings the most positive energy I’ve felt in a long time with her everywhere she goes. She curates Intersessions in Vancouver, which is an organization that provides accessible workshops for women, people of colour, and folks in the queer community to learn to DJ. A true angel, that one. Next up is Marie Foxall of Wasted Effort jewelry and Half & Half shop in Chinatown. Marie is a freak of nature and creates the most unique jewelry, smashes the drums and sings at the same damn time in her band Monsoon Moon, and also co-owns the cutest shop in Chinatown – what a dreamboat. Last but absolutely not least is my sweet friend Molly Randhawa, who is the Founding EIC of Contrast Collective, an online and print publication showcasing the work of people of colour, and co-host of the Contrast ‘Cast every Sunday on Save On Radio. Molly is a superstar!

How can Vancouverites in general help to support institutions like the Flea and help to make those needed changes? By shopping local! It’s so easy to support local brands when there are so many amazing ones in Vancouver! With the Holiday season looming, now is a great time to make the switch to include more local and independent businesses. It’s a simple shift that will make a big impact for local small businesses, and a great step towards more sustainable shopping habits!

What needs to change in Vancouver in order for businesses like the ESF to be sustainable and successful? It would be great to see more accessible small business resources available to folks starting out, and increased support from local government for the arts & culture community.

Besides what we already know and love about the ESF, what new and exciting things can we look forward to in the near future? Well, you may have heard by now that we’ve just opened a new location through Eastside Studios! The Clubhouse is just off Main at 1st and will be another new space for arts and culture events in Vancouver, and maybe even a cheeky Flea pop-up in the outdoor courtyard next summer… stay tuned!

What personal creative endeavour do you plan on pursuing next? I’ve done styling work for local designers/vintage collectors in my free time for a few years now, I have some fun projects planned for 2019 that I’m excited to get started on!

How about your personal goal for the next year? I have SO many, I’m a very goal oriented person. Knitting a sweater is high on the list.

What are your top three tips for successfully navigating the Flea? Check the Instagram ahead of time to see if there are any specific vendors you want to catch; shop for vintage before you get a drink (you’re gonna need both hands); ALWAYS come hungry because we have some of the best local food trucks at every Flea.

What sort of impact do you hope to make on the city? I hope we can encourage folks to support local businesses! We make it as easy and fun as possible to come down and invest directly in the local economy, and the hope is that this more sustainable and conscious way of shopping will eventually grow to include more parts of the city.

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