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St. Anthony's Flea Market Returns to Houston Street With New Vendors

 The new, revamped St. Anthony's flea market will carry more upscale, artisanal goods, including handmade jewelry and baby clothes.
St. Anthony's Flea Market
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SOHO — The flea market outside St. Anthony's Church is returning in March — with a new manager and new vendors.

The Marketplace at St. Anthony's, on West Houston Street between Thompson and MacDougal streets, had dwindled to just a handful of vendors when it shut down last year.

It's now being revived by James LaMorte of Metro Festival Productions, who hopes to build up the three-day-a-week market, drawing dozens of sellers peddling everything from handmade soap to Peruvian scarves.

"Because of the neighborhood, we are trying to keep it more upscale," LaMorte said. "We don't want a lot of junk there. We want handmade jewelry, handmade cosmetics."

LaMorte raised the fee for vendors from $40 to $50 per day, and he estimates that the fees from the Friday, Saturday and Sunday market will generate about $30,000 for the church annually.

St. Anthony's Church did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In addition to the new vendors, the overhauled market will still have some familiar faces, including Dina Lerman, 49, who was one of the last remaining vendors at St. Anthony's last year.

She makes whimsical clothing and accessories for babies, decorated with images of bugs, fruits, vegetables, pigeons and rats. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998 and donates a portion of her proceeds to MS research at NYU Medical Center.

Lerman said she's optimistic about the revamped market, particularly since LaMorte and his team seem eager to support and promote the vendors.

"I've heard that people are coming back now and are showing interest," she said. "That seems like a really good sign."

Another returning vendor is Andrew Clark, 51, a metalsmith who started selling handmade jewelry at the market 20 years ago but hasn't been there in several years.

"I'm excited about this market — I think it's going to be great," Clark said.

While there won't be any freshly prepared food at the market, because regulations prohibit cooking on site, there will be stands serving kettle corn and homemade cakes and pies, LaMorte said.

LaMorte started running church flea markets three decades ago when the pastor at his church approached him to do a fundraiser. LaMorte, then 20 years old, dove right in, rallying together more than 100 vendors.

He now runs outdoor markets all over the city, and he said he had his eye on the St. Anthony's flea market for about six years, noticing that it seemed to get smaller and smaller each year.

He repeatedly reached out to the church, offering to take it over, and finally, around Christmas, the church's leaders responded and agreed to accept his help, LaMorte said.

"This market actually at one time was one of the best markets in the city," he said.

The Marketplace at St. Anthony's will take place Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting March 7.