Jul 2, 2023 - Things to Do

New podcast wants to make flea markets sexy

Mall sign reading "Swap-O-Rama" in red letters on a blue background, Mexico flag attached to fence, waving in the wind.

The market at 41st and Ashland. Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

Friends Kristina Doukas and Rachel Sadowski are trying to bring younger shoppers to "Chicago's oldest flea market," Swap-O-Rama, and dispel negative attitudes toward bargain shopping.

Driving the news: Doukas and Sadowski co-host the new weekly podcast "You, Me, and the Flea," which they say is "making fleas sexy again."

Why it matters: Gen Z shoppers are driving the secondhand market, according to Vogue Business. Companies are tapping into the younger generation’s growing discomfort with "fast fashion," which includes brands like H&M and Primark.

By the numbers: There are about 5,000 operating flea markets nationwide — contributing to a $36.1 billion industry, says Doukas, who is also Swap-O-Rama's marketing director and part of the National Flea Market Association.

How it works: Admission to Swap-O-Rama is $2 for adults (and get a guest in for free with a "Buy One, Get One Free" coupon on the website). It's one-stop shopping once you're inside, with everything from tools to clothes to produce, often with live music from a band.

  • The largest location is at 41st and Ashland, with smaller markets in suburban Alsip and Melrose Park.
  • All are open on the weekends; weekday hours vary by location.

Zoom in: The indoor and outdoor market with about 1,000 vendors can be intimidating, but Sadowski says that's part of the experience. "I think it's cool as hell I can find a vintage T-shirt and then pick up limes and lemons for my girls' night because I'm making cocktails," she says on "You, Me, and The Flea."

  • "I feel like it's literally a Chicago hidden gem that more people need to know about, especially younger people," Sadowski adds.

Thought bubble: Give yourself a couple hours, but be prepared for a lot of stimulation. And be open-minded. Last time I bought a pair of multi-colored huaraches and a box of gum.


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