Boutique quality in a flea market model

  • Friday, November 19, 2010 2:42pm
  • Business

Sarah Wen shows off some of her collection at the new Bainbridge Marketplace. Wen will host the winter market Nov. 26 and 27 in the vacant building behind Black Bird Bakery.

Sarah Wen left her traditional brick-and-mortar job to turn junk into treasures. Her new venture takes her to flea markets, estate sales and garages where she looks past everyday objects and envisions a new dining room centerpiece when others might see scraps.

The idea for a flea-market inspired seasonal market started after Wen closed the doors of her clothing boutique, Kennedy and Kate, in October. She needed a way to get rid of all the furniture and props she collected over the years.

She realized that many of the fixtures were unique stand-alone pieces and with a touch of inventiveness could be repurposed for someone’s home. An idea was born.

The first rendition of the Bainbridge Marketplace will open Nov. 26-27, just in time for the annual rush of Black Friday shoppers.

The concept is a boutique-quality experience in a flea market business model. The market will have an array of items, many of which will be on their second life and purpose. One of Wen’s favorite items came from salvaged shutters she snagged from a friend who was remodeling. By creatively hiding the past life of an object a new, unique item is born.

For example, a candle holder is actually an old, tin tray that used to hold chicken feed. One of the lamp shades is actually made of old burlap.

“I’ve always been drawn to repurposing and saving things from the waste stream,” said Wen. “It’s not as hard as people think. You just have to look at things you see everyday from a new angle and you’ll find clever ideas.”

Throughout the market there is salvaged wood and weathered materials that are contrasted with crisp whites and monochrome color schemes to create what Wen calls “farmhouse chic.” The design is a blend of old and new, vintage and fresh. Patrons will find furniture and decor from Wen’s former Winslow Way boutique, handmade gifts, edibles and work from the three local artisan vendors.

The market will last just two days, but will occur four times a year on different parts of the island reflecting the season. Wen said she can keep prices down because she doesn’t have the overhead costs of maintaining and renting a full-time space.

For Wen her new business strategy gives her the pace and time she needs for her 2-year-old son Eli, while allowing her to pursue creative avenues with a positive environmental impact.

While operating her former boutique, Wen helped create the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association “BUY LOCAL” campaign, which reflects many of the important values in her life, she said. She hopes to open people’s eyes to the possibilities of decorating without buying something new.

“It would be great if my creations help inspire someone else to recreate something on their own,”

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