The St. Louis Swap Meet is getting a new home – and you’re going to love it.
Last year the St. Louis Swap Meet was one of the best new additions to the St. Louis scene. Every Sunday, you could find fresh fruits and vegetables, crafts, antiques, tasty food trucks, and all other kinds of trash and treasure at the Lemp Business Park on Lemp and Cherokee.
The swap meet gave vendors an opportunity to bring their wares to a large audience that they could not find on their own, and really filled a niche for a weekly market destination in St. Louis.
The first season of the St. Louis Swap Meet was highly successful, with owner Martin Casas (@MARTIN_CASAS) estimating about 2,000 visitors per week.
Of course there were some first-year glitches that had to be worked out. Several times the meet had to be cancelled due to inclement weather, as there was no protected inside area to vend. When it was hot (and boy, was it hot) visitors and vendors alike had to contend with a bright white and dusty gravel lot, surrounded by giant brick buildings, creating an oven-like effect. Casas reports that some vendors didn’t make as much money as they did in other locations, simply because each week people weren’t sure what they would find at the meet, or perhaps they accidentally bypassed it when they got there. But despite these growing pains, the market was an overall success. Casas was already planning changes to address some of the issues when he got word that the location he had been using was going to need to be closed for renovation/repairs.
Quickly he formed another plan, and this year the market will be embedded into the fabric of the Cherokee Street neighborhood, using four locations (a combination of indoor and outdoor) and creating an immersive Cherokee Street experience for visitors.
The starting point/home base for visitors will be The Corner Gates, at Cherokee and Lemp. This location will be indoor (and blissfully air-conditioned) and offer music, ATMs, bathrooms, indoor vendors, and adult beverages—giving visitors a place to take a break, or just sit back and watch the other swappers go by. Food trucks (limited to three per week, plus Rise coffee) will be stationed on Lemp, and the Irish Corner Pub will also be open to serve adult beverages during the meets.
Three lots, located along Cherokee from Lemp to Missouri Avenues, will host vendors, who will be grouped strategically to maximize their potential audience. Some lots are shaded, some tree-lined, and the experience should be much more comfortable than the broiling gravel of last year’s location. Of course, with visitors wandering up and down Cherokee, the businesses there should see more traffic. This is one of the reasons that Casas limited the amount of food trucks per week, as he wants local shops like Whisk and the Mud House to benefit from the increased foot traffic.
It’s no secret that last year some of the more entrenched businesses on Cherokee were resistant to the idea of the Swap Meet, worrying that they would lose customers. But Casas reports that as their businesses profited due to the increased foot traffic, they quickly learned to embrace it. This year the entire area should see an upswing in traffic, and Casas hopes that visitors will cross Jefferson and patronize businesses on that side of Cherokee as well.
“The one thing I really want to do is provide a great experience for the people on Cherokee Street,” Casas says. “The swap meet is a great addition to it, that gets families out to walk the street for the day …they really get a good feel for an active city life that you can’t find in the suburbs, and you really can’t find anywhere except here.”
Another huge change for the Swap Meet is its schedule. Rather than every Sunday, the meets will be held only on the first and last Sundays of the month. Casas reports both vendor and customer exhaustion as the reason for this change.
There will also be expansions to the meet this year – starting in July there will be Swap Meet vendors at the Arch grounds, catering to a more tourist-oriented crowd. Casas also reports a planned expansion into Wellston, and another more central location that he can’t yet reveal.
The first swap meet of the year will take place on Cherokee Street on April 24. Vendors and visitors can find more information at stlswapmeet.com. You can also follow the St. Louis Swap Meet on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – they take their social media very seriously.
I hope to see you all out at the swap meet this year for a new and improved experience! You can see my video interview with Martin at Whisk Bakeshop below.
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