For years, Fern Loiacono shopped the famous weekend brocantes, or flea markets, of Paris —Marché du Biron, Marche Vernaison and Porte de Clignancourt, the largest and oldest one — searching for the antique dolls she loved.
It wasn’t just the dolls she found there that she loved, but the idea of the marketplaces themselves.
Inspired by them, she launched French Market Marin in 2011, an outdoor flea market on the second Sunday of each month in the front parking lot of the Marin Center in San Rafael.
“I wanted to bring the ambience of the French flea markets in Paris to Marin,” she says. “The aroma of food and music coming from the cafes was delightful.”
The concept has proven to be a success, according to Loiacono, the producer of antique and collectible shows, including the Marin Doll and Toy Show and the Marin Indoor Antique Market, for more than 30 years.
Over the past few years, her French Market Marin, complete with a French crepe booth among the vendors and live French music from an accordion player and a gypsy jazz duo, has doubled in size, she says, with more than 140 booths featuring vintage and Estate jewelry, repurposed home furnishings, home and garden décor, rugs, art, posters, prints, linens, textiles, cottage chic and farmhouse-style along with vintage French country, Asian, African and Native American art, and an array of collectibles.
Vintage clothes “are always a hot-selling item and one can certainly find great bargains from vintage designer pieces to antique lace accessories,” she says.
She especially enjoys seeing families browse the market with their children.
“It can be a wonderful learning experience as history is brought to life through items from the past,” she says. “For instance, an old typewriter may be something a child may discover at the market and had never seen before in this age of technology.”
Many vendors specialize in their unique category of antique, vintage and collectible items, some bringing containers back from France.
“Trinidad and Johan, of Atelier de Campagne, are regulars at the market and have extraordinary decorative items,” she says.
Nancy Lee Moxie, a Novato native and former antiques dealer, is another specialized vendor who has been at the market since it first started. She sells antique garden furniture and objects from patio sets to urns and birdhouses she once purchased in France to sell at antique stores in San Anselmo and Petaluma.Now, she sells her remaining inventory, along with more recent acquisitions, at the French market.
“I like the casual atmosphere of the market with people walking by with their dogs or enjoying a crepe, and I like the variety of merchandise there,” she says.
Although Moxie has many higher-end and higher-priced items in storage, she sells the most affordable pieces at the market. Her vintage birdhouses can range from $20 to $200 and vintage benches sell for about $125.
“I try to buy for the people who shop here and choose what they want and can afford,” says Moxie. “I love it when people come back years later and tell me they still love something they bought from me.”
Like Moxie, most are permanent vendors who do the show every month, Loiacono says.
“The French Market Marine is an experience. Whether you’re searching for a bargain, treasure hunting for your collection, your home or just browsing in the fresh air, come shop, grab a crepe and say ‘bonjour’ to your favorite vendor. It’s all fun. ”
• Details: The French Market Marin takes place on the second Sunday of each month at the Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium parking lot at 10 Avenue of the Flags in San Rafael. Rainout days are to be determined. Admission and parking is free. For more information, call 415-383-2252 or go to thefrenchmarketmarin.com. Interested in selling? Vendors with vintage or antique items and a seller’s permit can apply for a booth ($95 to $145). For an application, send an email to email@example.com
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PJ Bremier writes on home, garden, design and entertaining topics every Saturday. She may be contacted at PO Box 412, Kentfield 94914, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.