Multi-merchant market Artists & Fleas opens in SoHo

The cost of doing business in New York City is forcing even big-name retailers to close up shop. But a local market is bucking that trend, opening its third location on Friday, May 12. The irony of the new Artists & Fleas is that it is moving into a space that Armani Exchange left behind.

So, how can smaller shops survive when the big guys can't even handle rents and overhead? They share space and stick together, and as the saying goes: the whole is great than the sum of its parts.

The brand-new Artists & Fleas will be open seven days a week on the corner of Broadway and Prince in SoHo. Co-creator Ronen Glimer describes Artists & Fleas as a multi-merchant market featuring artists, designers, makers, vintage collectors, aspiring independent entrepreneurs, and business owners.

Arsham Bekarian has a beautiful collection of jewels called Jewels by Atlantis. There are hand-crafted cards by Verrier, a local mother-and-daughter team.

When we visited Artists & Fleas in SoHo, the finishing touches were being put on the brand-new market, a 10,000-square-foot space with room for 40 vendors.

Tenisha Light Caba's Brooklyn Bleu has vintage-inspired jewelry and reconstructed and embellished clothing.

The Strand Bookstore is a New York institution looking to be a little more innovative in its retail.

Husband-and-wife team Ronen Glimer and Amy Abrams created the Artists & Fleas concept more than a decade ago and have been growing it steadily ever since. They opened their first market in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 14 years ago. 

Amy says that it was sort of an experiment at that time. They found a really cool warehouse that they thought would be a fun place to showcase some of their friends who were artists and designers. Today, the market in Williamsburg is open weekends with 100 rotating merchants.

Six years ago they opened their second home with a series of pop-ups in Chelsea Market. They took up permanent residence in Chelsea in April 2014 and now have more than 30 vendors selling seven days a week.

Artists & Fleas has even branched out to California, with markets in Downtown L.A. and Venice Beach.

Amy says SoHo has always been known as an incredible place for artists. She considers it the heartbeat of New York City, especially from a retail perspective.

At a time when a lot of bigger retailers and department stores are struggling, Artists & Fleas is capitalizing on consumer interest in something more personal. Ronen believes we're in the eye of a perfect storm right now, as it relates to everything happening in retail and real estate. People crave stories and social experiences -- but in real life, not on devices.

Artists & Fleas is also helping local creatives bring their businesses to life. Andrew Cheung of CuratedBasics, a line of men's basics all under $100, says he wouldn't have a business without Artists & Fleas. Ronen calls that soul-nurturing.

At the end of the day, Ronen says that Artists & Fleas isn't just about a paycheck. It is about knowing that he and Amy have a hand in facilitating someone making a living making their thing.

Artists & Fleas is also launching e-commerce at Starting Friday, May 12, you'll also be able to shop 150 curated items from vendors if you can't make it to the markets.