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Preserving History, Embracing Vintage: Inside The Lafayette Flea

From a 60’s bowling alley to a vintage haven, The Lafayette Flea’s new ownership is evolving the business to become the next exciting hangout spot and shop in Lafayette.

Featuring over 150 vendors, The Lafayette Flea has grown to be a major success story in Old Town Lafayette. Starting out as a bowling alley built in 1962, a couple by the name of Bill and Cheryl Hopkins transformed the building into a flea market to feature a unique and eclectic mix good, vintage items, and antiques in the 1990s.

Up until the summer of 2022, the Hopkins kept the flea market alive. They were dedicated to doing and creating something together, as collectors, that they could call their own. Once they decided to sell the building, potential buyers wanted to remove of the flea market as a whole, but John Smidt, the current owner of The Lafayette Flea, came to the rescue.

“My father-in-law happened to be one of the first vendors when the flea market opened in 1990. He is a books and antiques dealer,” said John. “I was the only one that was going to take ownership and keep it as a flea market. It’s almost been a year and since I took over, I have just been cleaning up the place, fixing the lighting, adding in another bathroom, and just making a lot of upgrades to the flooring, building fixtures, and yard.”

Since John’s ownership, the team updated the logo and changed the name to, “The Lafayette Flea: Vintage Emporium.” Their goal is to keep that original flea name in it, but bring the business up a notch and add more vintage, cool stuff. The vendors bring in new stuff every day and The Lafayette Flea is open 7 days a week, so their shoppers get to experience new stuff right as it comes in. They also have an adorable store cat named Beaux that is always ready to greet shoppers as they come in.

Vendors within this vintage emporium rent out their booth space and price all of their own items, but John takes many factors into consideration when choosing the perfect vendors to bring into his business. They have to be a good fit that sells the exciting, vintage, nostalgic pieces that fit into his elevated vision of The Lafayette Flea. His customer’s happiness and the vendor’s success are his two top motivations. 

“Vintage clothing and posters, records, kid’s toys, Legos, and refurbished furniture make a lot of great sales, but we have such a large variety of stuff that there is something for everyone. We have a record room with over 3,000 records and a jukebox and a lot of funky art. We are trying to create different areas that break up the space and make it easy for people to find cool stuff they are looking for,” said John.

Recently, The Lafayette Flea has been hosting live events with local Lafayette musical artists and restaurants. John is hoping to make those frequent throughout the year as an additional way for the community to connect in Old Town Lafayette. The team worked with Eats & Sweets, BREW coffee, Due South, William Oliver’s, and Ghost Box Pizza on various events, and other Lafayette businesses have welcomed John in with open arms, so he is excited to work with many other local shops in the future.

From the get-go, John introduced himself to all the local businesses, and they were immediately excited about the new energy he was planning to bring to the flea market.

“The community is really impressive and so many people just come in and compliment us on the improvements we have made,” said John. “Overall, everyone has been really supportive and local business owners even come in and buy stuff from us for their shops or houses.”

The future is bright for The Lafayette Flea and there are so many more exciting advancements and live events to be held throughout the upcoming years. John has hopes to build another building next to the flea market with indoor pickleball courts, food trucks, and birthday events, and really make that whole corner where The Lafayette Flea is located more community driven.Learn more about The Lafayette Flea and all the exciting stuff they have coming up by following their Facebook and Instagram accounts, visiting their website, or heading over for an in-person visit at 130 East Spaulding Street from 10 am – 6 pm Monday – Saturday and 11 am – 5 pm on Sundays.

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