This past Sunday, Sept. 12, the monthly Cutler Flea Market was held at the Broome County Regional Farmers Market on Upper Front Street in Binghamton. The event — an upscale flea market specializing in artisan goods and high-quality antiques — has been running for over three years, and after a short break in its schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the market has returned in full fashion for the first time since May.
Mimi Sprague, an antique dealer at Mad Hatter Antiques in Binghamton, has been running the event for three years now, back from its early stages as a “pop-up shop.”
“[My partner George Carbaba and I] used to do pop-ups in the old Atomic Tom’s building,” Sprague said in an interview. “We would do something temporary in that building with around 20 other vendors. We wanted something like the Chelsea Flea in New York City. The idea was to keep the pop-up going, but in a regular format where people can reliably find it.”
Eventually, Sprague and the Cutler Flea Market secured the Broome County Regional Farmers Market building as a venue and aimed for a monthly schedule.
“We put it together not really knowing how well it was going to do,” Sprague said. “It turns out people were just amazed by it.”
One aspect of the Cutler Flea Market that sets it apart from other events, especially around the Southern Tier and Western New York, is its focus on quality over quantity. Sprague, along with the majority of vendors she works with, is a career antique dealer working in the area who has a good eye for what people want.
“It has a reputation as not just a flea market, but a real antique show,” Sprague said. “Along with some other artisan goods and local food, we have vendors who are in the Binghamton area, who are in Cooperstown area, in Oneonta and Ithaca. People will drive all the way here just to sell.”
The Cutler Flea Market, on top of being a destination for locals and amateur home decorators, also has a reputation as a good spot for professionals as well.
“Dealers buy a lot from other dealers,” Sprague said. “Stuff to collect or to bring back and sell at their own shops. Even today, I bought a few things for my own place.”
While the Cutler Flea Market has certainly developed a reputation in the local community over the past few years, Sprague wants the event to grow further, specifically among young people and college students, who she feels connect with the low-cost, high-quality goods they have on display.
“You go to Target or somewhere like that, you’re just buying a mass-produced reproduction of something old,” Sprague said. “[Those companies] send people to flea markets around the world, they find something cool, and they reproduce it with particle board instead of wood.”
Sprague said the future of antiques, flea markets and all these types of events is in the hands of young people. With thrifting, frugality and the newfound focus of the younger, college-aged generation, the jump from secondhand clothes to things like home decor is easy and inevitable.
“A lot of the younger kids, millennials and people like that, they don’t want the same old lower quality stuff that stores have been selling in the past,” Sprague said. “In recent years, the antique business has really taken off again.”
The Cutler Flea Market will be held monthly throughout the fall, on the second Sunday of each month. It is located in the Broome County Regional Farmers Market building at 840 Upper Front St. in Binghamton. Admission is free.