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Now for sale at Bushwick flea market: Punk records and zines

The Brooklyn Paper
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Young artists are setting up shop in a flea market in Bushwick that for years has been the exclusive domain of vendors selling discount clothes, DVDs, and secondhand sneakers.

The Broadway bazaar is a warren of shipping-container stalls in the shadow of the elevated J, M, and Z tracks, meaning it fits right in with the homemade zines and band-logo patches the newcomers are hawking. One budding businessman was not bothered by the relatively narrow market for and slim profit margins on such items.

“We are building this up from scratch and figuring it out as we go,” said Avi Spivak, co-owner of Rebel Rouser, a record shop that opened in the flea market a few weeks ago.

The store, which like the others takes up a space smaller than a typical bedroom, specializes in punk records, underground and horror comics, and old cult movies on VHS.

Another stall that houses a tiny used bookstore is a big upgrade for the owners, who previously had been selling paperbacks at a table outside the Morgan L station.

“This is a natural progression,” Matty D’Angelo, co-owner of Better Read Than Dead, which specializes in used books and music zines. “I wanted a more welcoming environment to sell books.”

The move was simple economics, D’Angelo said.

“We are here because it is an available space that we can afford,” he said.

Early last Wednesday afternoon, Better Read Than Dead was the only micro-business open in the entire flea market, though it is unclear how much of that is because longtime tenants have moved on. The odd hours of newcomer stores, on the other hand, have a ready explanation. Spivak and his partners are still running their stall as a sideline to better-paying work and sojourns out of the city.

“We are still figuring out our hours because two guys are out of town and we have obligations with our day jobs,” said Spivak. “I cannot be there every day.”

The freshly arrived bohemian arrived shops may have a tough time getting into the black if a recent visit is any indication.

No one was shopping at Better Read Than Dead on Wednesday afternoon and passerbys whom we quizzed said they had not patronized any of the new businesses.

“It does not sound like they would have much that I like, but I will check it out,” said Len Montoya, who lives a few blocks away on Bushwick Avenue. “It is different than a lot of the stores around here.”

But a more conventional new seller says that the vendors are pooling their money to start advertising. And he is a big fan of his neighbors.

“I think they are excellent,” said Robert Richards, owner of Richards Sports, a soccer apparel shop. “The things they sell and their personalities are really nice.”

D’Angelo said he is not sure whether the ongoing gentrification of Bushwick will ultimately bolster or sink his business.

“I do not know how the neighborhood has changed in the past few years and how it will affect us,” said D’Angelo. “That is assuming our business is viable.”

Both D’Angelo and Spivak declined to say how much they pay in rent.

Flea market (867 Broadway between Locust and Belvidere in Bushwick). Hours vary.

Updated 6:46 pm, July 16, 2014: Information and quotes from Robert Richards added.
Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
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