They Grow Up So Fast: A Look at Art and Flea’s New Digs

With the rising prominence of Kakaako’s art and food scene, it makes sense that Art and Flea, the monthly flea market and trade show that began three years ago inside Kakaako’s Fresh Cafe, will move into a bigger building. Their next event on Jan. 23 will inaugurate their new location on 449 Cooke St.

“We felt like it was time to expand. Being at Fresh Café has been great, but we decided we need more space since Art and Flea keeps growing,” says Co-founder and Event Director Aly Ishikuni. “We’re called Art and Flea, and while the flea is definitely there, we want to bring more art. That’s partly what this new location is for.”

They plan to utilize the space to incorporate more live art, music performances, and food.

“It’s a lateral move for us,” says Brand Manager Pete Ulatan.

It will also ease the concerns felt by many vendors and attendees who had trouble parking on Queen Street, where public parking is sparse.

“We were hearing complaints about people getting towed and getting tickets. [Here], there will be ample parking,” Ishikuni says.

The new space—a renovated warehouse—offers more than 8,000 square feet and, in the past, vendors were responsible for bringing in their own structures to display their apparel or art pieces. Here, shelves have been added to each vendor’s booth. Rates have increased and range from $65–$85 per event, depending on size and wall space.

The warehouse is a shared space, and Art and Flea will have access every fourth Thursday for the event. Ishikuni and Ulatan say that holding Art and Flea there more frequently is not an impossibility, but it seems they’re also focusing on holding Art and Flea pop-ups in other neighborhoods. Previous Art and Flea events were held in Chinatown, Kailua, and on Feb. 8, it will be in Mililani.

With all of the additions, you might wonder what makes Art and Flea different from similar events such as Night Market or the Pinch of Salt events, also held in Kakaako.

“What sets us apart is a different demographic,” Ulatan says. Indeed, Art and Flea’s flavor is for the younger DIY/start-up community, while the Pinch of Salt retail warehouse, produced by Kamehameha Schools and Street Grindz and open during Night Market, seems targeted to more established designers and boutiques such as Andy South and Treehouse. Art and Flea is also more restrictive in what it allows its vendors to sell: There can be nothing mass produced, imported, or taken from a sample sale, for example.

In addition to the foundational improvements, Art and Flea organizers are at work improving their web presence and brand as well.

Their website is a media outlet, behaving like a magazine or blog and covering topics such as fashion, music, and thrifting. It was designed by Ulatan, and Art and Flea’s relatively small staff and interns provides the content; Ishikuni, Ulatan, and Assistant Manager Naomi Taga act as de facto editors.

“There are so many things we want to cover. I have a whole list of profiles and things like that, and I just assign them out here and there. We are trying to provide a range of content for our readers,” said Ishikuni.

Ulatan also redesigned the logo because, “we used to have a bunch of different ones and we wanted to finally pick one that captured what we’re about,” Ulatan says. “We are a creative hub. Our main goal is to help small businesses and to provide them with a place to reach out to people that otherwise wouldn’t know about them.”

Art and Flea’s first event in the new space is on Thurs., Jan. 23, with more than 70 vendors and musical performances by Donnis and The Deadbeats, 5–10 pm, 449 Cooke St. The theme is 1950s “Happy Days”, and those in costume pay a $2 entry fee, or $3 otherwise. Cash only. Those under 12 get in free. Vendors interested in registration can find the registration form here.

Photo courtesy of Aly Ishikuni

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is a writer and editor in Honolulu.

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