Antique sellers, artists, glassblowers and jewelers basked in the morning light of the first Chilmark Flea Market last Wednesday, waiting on their folding chairs and backs of trucks for customers and fellow vendors to approach their tables of goodies.

This marks the 43rd year of the Flea, as it is colloquially called among loyalists, where all sorts of knickknacks can be found. Everything from vintage clothing and wire statues to mounted animal heads and stained glass windows are available. As young families perused collections, children ran off to see the henna tattoo stall, while others nagged their parents for money to buy a brownie and lemonade.

“I think we’re having more local vendors than in the past,” Ann Deitrich, organizer of the Flea, said in an interview last week. “We try to enlarge it.”

The Chilmark Flea Market began on the steps of Chilmark Community Church at the Menemsha Crossroads, and has seen several moves in the past few years including to the West Tisbury School and a spot on Middle Road before settling into its present location on North Road between Tea Lane and Tabor House Road.

“This seems like a keeper hopefully,” Mrs. Deitrich said. “It’s hard to get property to lease in Chilmark.”

Jane Neumann has been selling at the flea market since 1977, and has seen the location change over the years. “This is the best location we’ve had since the original,” Ms. Neumann said. “Listen to the birds singing; it’s just magic.”

Many customers covet Ms. Neumann’s antique collection in the back corner of the market, ranging from green glass to ceramics. “It’s fun because it’s kind of a social occasion with vendors and customers,” she said.

Sherill Hope
Sherill Hope and friends at the flea in the meadow. — Ray Ewing

Sue Miller was in the stall next to Ms. Neumann, and the two have known each other for years. “Jane and I go way back to the church porch days,” Ms. Miller said as she put out some of her vintage jewelry.

Collecting old jewelry is her passion, but she sells silver fish serving sets from England and new jewelry as well. “My favorite thing is going to parties on the Vineyard and seeing people wear my jewelry,” Ms. Miller said, smiling. “I’m thrilled to be here.”

Vineyard Vases, the glass vases that look like the Vineyard’s traditional flower cans, were first sold at the Chilmark Flea 14 years ago. “This was how I got my start,” Nan Bacon said, sitting on her beach chair under a tree. “I love being with other vendors and the casual laid back feeling.”

But even with 52 vendors this year selling photographs, rugs, paintings, antiques, soaps, furniture and the like, there are still nearly 20 people on a standby list every week. “We’ve gotten calls . . . but we just don’t have room,” Mrs. Deitrich said.

This year, Mrs. Deitrich started registering vendors two months earlier than in past years, with the regulars like Ms. Neumann and Ms. Bacon calling in ahead of time to secure their stalls.

Steve Lohman
Creating on the spot: Steve Lohman looks sharp. — Ray Ewing

“Look at this,” Gwen Nichols said, pointing to her wampum jewelry and stained glass art. “It’s my job.”

She pointed out the colored rocks holding her tablecloth down, describing how she paints them a different color every year to match her new cloths. The rocks are lilac this year, but shades of green, blue and pink could be seen on the bottom from years past.

Ms. Nichols has been selling here for 12 years; she sells at the Featherstone Flea Market too. “I’d rather be up-Island,” she said, citing a difference in clientele. Dana Nunes had the same experience between the up-Island and down-Island markets, and as a result decided to stop selling at the Oak Bluffs market.

“People know how to bargain here,” she said, noting one difference. “They were looking for yard sale prices [at Featherstone].”

Marilyn Holland
Pictures by Marilyn Hollinshed at work on North Road. — Ray Ewing

Ms. Nunes welcomes people to sit and have a conversation with her on the back of her van of treasures, most of which have come from her mother’s home. “Fresh faces and fresh voices are needed after a long winter on the Vineyard,” she said. “I never complain about the summer people.”

In the 20 years she’s sold at the Chilmark Flea, Ms. Nunes said she has never had a bad check, something she considers a record on the Island. She noticed that last year no one used credit cards, perhaps due to the poor economy, and sales were off $4,000 in sales on wooden bowls she sells for a friend in New York.

Ms. Nunes had just donated one of the bowl sets to the Fish Farm for Haiti Clambake, her friend shouting back over her shoulder how generous she was. “The money’s nice,” Ms. Nunes said of her experience at the flea market over the years. “But the people are what’s best.”


The Chilmark Flea Market is held every Saturday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. off North Road.