In light of our recent BIG decision to move our event to another weekend, we thought it'd be fun to share the behind-the-scenes decision-making that has to occur to move an event like this. So, let's go!
THE LAW OF THE FLEA
Three years (or 42 markets, if you count Sunday Market + Holiday Markets). That's how long The Cleveland Flea has gone without a single weather-related cancellation. In craft show years, that's like twenty-one years of straight sunny skies. We even missed Cleveland's last serious snow storm by seven days during the April 2016 Flea because we had (in January) decided that April 9th sounded, just, too early. You would have thought that we made a deal with the devil... and then the May 2016 Flea happened. Finally, we had proof that The Law of The Flea (where nothing can touch us) is not divine intervention, it was merely luck. We like to actually believe that The Universe knew how we all needed The Flea to succeed and take off, and now that we're all tough and ready for challenges, we've been taken back down to mere mortal status.
MAY FLEA RE-CAP
Those of you who were at the May Flea know what we're talking about. It was sleeting. The wind turned tents inside-out. Essentially, it was the opposite of every event that we've ever held. Mother Nature made it clear that she was running the show, and that sometimes she prefers her pop-up tents upside-down. It was weather that even seriously experienced vendors had to muster courage to handle, but after a while, it became apparent that we were in a losing battle- with the wind. So now, on the eve of our second consecutive event with potential for bad weather (and we mean bad weather), we're making a plan B, and C, and D. We want to share with you how it came to be.
RAIN OR SHINE- WHAT'S THAT REALLY MEAN?
Don't get us wrong, we're still a rain or shine event. But there's a huge difference between rain and lightning, tornados, and blizzards. The scary thing about weather is that it can change in a minute and you can't do much about it. So, when we see even the potential for conditions that would dramatically put the safety of our vendors and customers in jeopardy for longer than a few hours, we hit the pause button on prepping the Boozy Slushy Bar and pull back for some serious decision-making, weather-stalking and list-writing. We will always operate during rain. Our shiny new weather policy is driven by sustained winds 30MPH, thunderstorms or the occasional incapacitating snow storm. Fun fact: December Flea weather was 68 degrees and sunny. Also, I know you all think you'd shop in a blizzard or a thunderstorm, chances are YOU JUST WON'T.
FACT 1: THE FLEA IS AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER, NOT A SPEED BOAT
That essentially means that to undo anything with an event of our size, of our type, requires enormous energy, takes a long time, and leaves a giant wake in its midst. If we're gonna re-scheduled, we need to do it sooner rather than later. Thursday by noon we made the decision to reschedule the June 2016 Flea for June 18. This was a more stressful decision to make than anyone at The Cleveland Flea HQ could've anticipated. We literally gasped after we hit the "send" button on our email to vendors about the change. As scary as it was to do that, we thought it might be fun for readers to get an idea of how we decided to take the path that ultimately lead us to rescheduling.
FIRST THOUGHT: CAN WE POSSIBLY MOVE THE FLEA INSIDE, SOMEWHERE???
WAIT! THE TYLER VILLAGE PARKING GARAGE!!!
Cue a 1960's Dr. Who wormhole-like flashback: It's Wednesday morning at 10 AM and we're glued to our phones and weather apps. "Eighty-six degrees and severe thunderstorms with damaging winds" was plastered all over every weather app available. You may not know this, but the ground floor of the buildings that surround us on the South and East is a giant parking garage. ALL THAT OPEN, COVERED, SPACE. We'd never had to consider this before, but what would that Flea look like? As our first plan of action, we got to work measuring the space in the Tyler Village parking garage. That, in itself it a bit a task. Imagine three ladies, clip boards in hands, measuring tape, chalk and a critical mind looking at every decision and what it would mean.
WHY IT DOESN'T REALLY WORK:
- No access to power for our 10-12 food vendors who require (and pay for it) each event. No pierogies at The Flea doesn't seem like a Flea at all.
- When we squished nearly all our vendors inside (in booth sizes almost half the size as normal) it kinda fit! But then there was no room for shoppers to, well you know, shop. We could just predict that negative comments headed our way about how it was too packed to even see anything. This month, we had our biggest market yet. 185 vendors! Our typical 125-150 MIGHT just have pulled it off, but not with this mighty-sized Flea.
- Have you met the Building Department? We'll just leave it at that.
LET'S GET A TENT TO COVER THE FLEA!!!
Next up was the idea to cover the entire parking lot with a giant enclosed tent... that cost $50,000. You can see the problem there. Not to mention that tents in the city of Cleveland require a permit to be pulled in advance, no small task to put on a tent person with 3 days before The Flea. Plus, who would pay for that? We certainly can't!
WHAT ABOUT ANOTHER, RANDOM BUILDING IN THE CITY!?
As much as you might think that there are just random warehouses sitting around the city just waiting for us to pop-up in them, there just aren't.
- We need 60,000+ square feet of indoor space
- It's gotta match our vibe (ie, we're not going to the IX Center, friends)
- It's got to have a liquor license
- It's got to have a building owner who is willing to be okay with that many people coming to their building and potentially ruining things
- Sidenote: our Holiday Space for 2016 Season cancelled on us 30 days before our event. THIRTY DAYS. TO FIND A NEW SPACE THAT WORKS FOR US. WHILE STILL ACTUALLY PLANNING THE EVENT. Just so you, know, THAT IS A STRESSFUL SITUATION TO BE IN.
- It's got to cost us ZERO dollars (because we'll already be spending a ton to make a random indoor space work for us)
- It's got to have lots of power
- And bathrooms, like 10-12 of them for a crowd of our size
- It's gotta be zoned for Assembly
- It needs to be approved by the Fire Department and Building Department
- We go through Fire Inspection + Building Inspection (a process alone that can send you into a panic attack)
- It's got to have enough light for people to shop
- There's got to be room for people to actually shop, not just room for booth spaces
- It's got to have some serious parking near it that we're allowed to use
- It's gotta be in City Limits. We want to revitalize and bring people down to the urban core, not just make life easy on ourselves, obviously.
Now, do you REALLY still think that this is a space that actually exists? We asked Santa for one 3 years in a row, and still haven't gotten it from the jolly guy. But if you DO know of a space like this, or a cool building owner that might love to have The Flea stop on over, send them our way!
LET'S JUST WAIT IT OUT! WE ALWAYS DO THAT!
We thought about waiting-out the forecast to see if things changed on Friday night, but that left all of our traveling vendors in a lurch. You we have vendors coming from Atlanta, Indiana, Cincinnati, Columbus, and more. They were eagerly texting us about our plans, and we couldn't push them off without them facing some consequences.
Food vendors prep the week of the Flea, not the day of the flea. There's donuts to be fried, macarons to be baked, cupcakes to be frosted, cookies to cut. And let's not kid ourselves. Hot fried chicken served during The Flea is better than cold fried chicken served to no one after The Flea, no matter what Paula Deen says.
We pull a temporary liquor license from The State of Ohio each month. It's tied to THAT ONE DAY. So, it's already headed back to Columbus to be amended for June 18. And that also means that we needed to drop off the new amended application pages to the 3rd district police station, then the Justice Center, then back to Columbus to meet up with it's other half- the re-issued permit. We'll assure you- it's a bit of a process and it needed to be started ASAP.
OUR DAY-OF STAFF
Did you know that it takes 37 people on our staff alone to make The Flea run smoothly on just that ONE day? From our clean-up crew to our set-up crew to our bartenders and even our police officers, there's a lot of people to notify and reschedule. And guess what? Some of them can't make the new date. So, now that's back on our plates.
GETTING THE WORD OUT TO SHOPPERS
Good thing we have social media, right!? But not everyone is on social media. Some people just have our postcard, with our dates on it. So, we're sure that some people will show up, and we're so sorry to spoil their day, but we just don't have the capacity to go door-to-door to make sure everyone who might find their way to The Flea gets the message. But you can help there! Spread the word for us!
WE ASKED OUR VENDORS TO HELP US MAKE THE DECISION
At the end of the day, we have a really awesome group of experienced vendors that have worked with us consistently over the years, and we turned to them for input on how they might like Saturday's weather to be addressed. Each of them are so different. We called-up vintage, accessories, stationery, food truck, and housewares vendors... and then some. We even sent out a survey to our Saturday sellers to get a truly democratic take on the situation. What we found was that the majority of people agreed with what we wanted to do in the first place: reschedule.
So yeah, we thought about this a lot... and now we have a bad weather policy. It keeps everyone from getting struck by lightning. That would be sad. You know what's not sad? A (hopefully) sunny Saturday, June 18!
Knowing Northeast Ohio Weather, we'll have a perfectly nice June 11. And we'll all just have to be ok with the choice we made. Mother Nature again reminds us she's the ultimate BOSS.