If you’re a Chicagoan who likes to shop than no doubt you’ve heard of the Randolph Street Market. Created in 2004 by former party planner Sally Schwartz, the event has even attracted the likes of Oprah darling Nate Berkus. Our Town spoke with Schwartz about the Market’s inception, current incarnation, and because we here at Our Town are fashion impaired, snagged some style tips as well.
Our Town When you started what was originally known as Chicago Antique Market, did you have any inkling of what it would become?
Sally Schwartz I knew it was a big idea but I didn't actually think I'd still be doing it eight years later, thought I would be on my yacht having cornered the market in some rare item I'd stumbled across. Honestly, it's so much fun I can't imagine doing anything else and feel very blessed that it's been so well received.
OT Randolph Street Market has been described as an urban street party rather than a traditional flea market. What goes into cultivating that atmosphere?
SS I always wanted this event to feel safe and be a safe place to transact business so the vendors are hand picked and screened. Because it's a two-day show, everyone gets to relax and have fun. Throw in the alcohol and people are loose and enjoying life. It's our cool vendors, many of whom camp out onsite, that make the event such a joy for the customers. We also have lots of big cops, Chicago's finest, as bouncers making sure everyone behaves. Chicago is such a unique place, even in the world of big cities, and the Randolph Street Market reflects it, a little wacky, a lot of quality.
OT Haggling at RSM, distasteful or necessary?
SS Haggling is just part of the game and the fun! Though many of our vendors report that they love our market so much because lots of the customers never beat them down in price at all. They think our Chicago customers are so fun and polite and appreciative. And apparently, that's unusual in the world of flea marketing!
OT What was it like to receive a mention from Oprah darling Nate Berkus?
SS I was totally thrilled the first time I saw Nate wandering about. I knew he would shout it from the rooftops. It's incredibly validating to have people with the means to travel anywhere and buy anything tell you how much they love what they see and buy at the Randolph Street Market.
OT This weekend you’re hosting pool parties and a photography competition.
SS The pool party is part of the high jinx, we fill kiddie pools and put lawn chairs around them and VOILA! Pool party! It keeps everyone cool in spirit and gives the pups a place to drink and romp. The first annual Vintage Vernacular & Street Style photo contest is another way for us to get our audience participating and using the market as a backdrop. There are so many fabulous photo ops and we just can't capture them all so we invite our attendees to try their hands at creating permanent memories.