When Kristen Dempwolf ran her first York Flea event on Clarke Avenue between Beaver and Pershing streets in October 2015, she and 10 vendors gathered in the pouring rain to sell everything from vintage clothing to handcrafted soaps, candles, and décor.
This year alone, more than 100 micro-businesses have participated in York Flea, which has hosted multiple open-air and indoor events throughout downtown and beyond.
“The main goal for me is creating space for these businesses to thrive,” Kristen says. “Many of these vendors have the goal to someday own a storefront or a thriving e-commerce business.”
York Flea and events like it allow vendors to test the waters, gain connections, and pivot before getting to that point.
“We have so many stories of local businesses with brick and mortars or big online followings who started right here at York Flea,” she says.
Today, Kristen is the full-time Chief Marketing Officer for The Pretzel Company, which ships pretzels wholesale to the 48 continental states. But her love of local businesses started long before she stepped into that role.
While working for Downtown Inc as the Events and Marketing Coordinator several years ago, she found a group of mentors — including former Downtown Inc colleague Natalie Williams and the Cultural Alliance’s Kelley Gibson — who helped her see the potential in York.
While Kristen helped organize and successfully grow First Fridays and Go Green in the City, she saw a gap in the local market.
“No one was really touting the makers, the people who were running these small or even micro-businesses,” she says. “These people always brought an added value to an existing event, but there wasn’t anything that said, ‘This event is about you and what you do.’”
Kristen doesn’t know what the future of York Flea looks like, but she knows as long as it continues to provide a space and a voice for her vendors, she’s meeting her end goal.
“At the end of the day, I want our vendors to know they’re important to our community, and I want to help them succeed,” she says. “They bring a lot of value to York, and I want other people to see that.”