VERY LA: Inside the Melrose Trading Post

fairfax
Courtesy of @MTPfairfax

On the corner of Melrose and Fairfax an eclectic group of Los Angelinos set up shop in the parking lot of the local high school. To them, it’s just a regular Sunday of selling handmade graphics of Star Wars’ C-3PO meshed with Barack Obama and bartering for The Plays of Shakespeare, book-turned-clock.   

The pop up flea market that has inhabited the blacktop of Fairfax High School is the urban Melrose Trading Post. The post, which is a center for vintage fashion, handcrafted goods, and other unique items, has been making its name on the list of things to-do while in the city.  At the Melrose Trading post, a keen eye could find the missing piece to a collection of crystalline rocks or the decorative picture frame for a studio.

The Melrose Trading Post can be recognized for its lively yet mellow crowd. A colorful audience of different cultures reflects the unique, special valuables of the vendors. Around the corner a trio of women have a conversation in Japanese and within just a few steps a British pair contemplates buying leather shoes. The attendees were young enough to walk through the market on their own and old enough to reminisce on fashion styles of the 70’s.  The absence of police officers showed the tranquility of the post.

Established in 1997, the Melrose Trading Post has grown into a financial support system for Fairfax High School. The post has awarded the home of the Lions with funds for new sporting equipment and other projects benefiting the schools programs.

“We are a non-profit organization,” said Pierson Blaetz, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Melrose Trading Post.

Blaetz is part of the Greenway Arts Alliance program that unites communities through art, education, and enterprise. This specific role aids the theater program at the high school and supports their future productions.

A $5 admission fee is the backbone to the financial aid the school receives but still offers free parking. Along with the grants, the market provides student employment opportunities.

Albert Zarzau, 16, is a part of the student staff and was working with graduates to direct the staff what tasks needed to be done that day. He said that student staffers are required to clean tables, assist in parking, and help move items from one place to another. Their red crew work shirts distinguished these students from guests.

“I like it here because it takes effort in this job to get things accomplished,” said Zarzau. “[Everything] looks great today.”

Alongside the staffers are vendors who contribute to the bohemian ambiance of the post. At the Los Angeles Tea Company booth, where organic tea and fresh herbs are blended, Erin Wieczorek, 22 and co-owner, sold $5 bottles of green tea.

“It’s awesome meeting new people here but the best thing about [the Melrose Trading Post] is to people watch,” said Wieczorek. “It’s interesting to see what people are wearing in L.A.”

In between a tent featuring baby blue table furniture and another tent with prints of Milhouse Van Houten was Matt Warren’s booth. Warren, 33, owner of The Exiled Elite, a custom design and illustration company, took his passion for art from the United Kingdom to California. His products include hand drawn alternative-movie posters that were sold as prints or t-shirts.

He said about the trading post, “when no one turns up on hot days like these or there is an event, that’s kind of frustrating. But even if you don’t get many sales, it’s still good for exposure.”

Warren uses the slow days to his advantage.

“I still get to see what kind of people buy my stuff and age group- which kind of designs are the most popular, so they are the ones I can get.”

So far his top sellers have been prints of the films Amelie, Point Break, and Pulp Fiction. Tees of these prints cost $25 while copies of the print $18.

“We do not have a lot of competition, ” said Blaetz. “[But] we are an outdoor market so weather does affect us.”

Hot or rainy days attract fewer customers but when it’s overcast, more customers visit the post, according to Blaetz. His only solution would be setting up a tent that stretches over the market but because of space and monetary restrictions the staff opted out.

Just up a set of stairs across from Warren’s booth and past a flock of food trucks was the main stage for musical performances. Laid out carpets and small lunch tables invited attendees to watch punk band, Girl Fry’s first performance at the post.   

Alex Si, 25-year-old bass player, and band mate Jessy Espino, 25-year-old vocalist of Girl Fry, shared similar opinions of their first experience at the trading post.

“I wish they hadn’t kept telling us to turn certain things up and put certain things down. It made it difficult to play consistently,” said Espino. “But I kinda like the outdoor thing.”

“Yeah, it was the first time we played outside,” said Si.  

The female fronted band simultaneously agreed on returning again to perform- except this time with a sound guy.

Milli Dawson, 29, born and raised in Los Angeles, has been attending the Melrose Trading Post for the past 10 years. His style manifests the modernity of the city and showcases his sense of individualism.

“It’s a place to inspire, a place to find things you won’t find normally,” said Dawson. “It’s part of L.A.”

**This article was written in the past for a previous assignment, some start up organizations or brands may no longer be up to date

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