LAST WEEK, I spotted a Hampton Jitney bus cruising Montgomery Street and bemoaned the idea of Savannah becoming Manhattan's unofficial sixth Borough.
Less than an hour later, Savannah Fire Flea founder Jake Spetalieri kindly disabused me of my cynicism.
He pointed out that for every visible New Yorker on Savannah holiday, there’s an unseen Savannahian who has migrated home to seek his or her creative fortune after being priced out of The Big Apple and other large city markets.
“Local artists who picked up and left for other cities have been coming back in the past couple of years. What we’re starting to see here now is a lot of startups with a foothold in the community,” he noted.
Less than a year after his own return, Jake has launched Savannah Fire Flea, a weekly, curated market, featuring vintage antiques, handmade goods and food.
Inspired by his experience as a vendor at the world famous Brooklyn Flea, Jake is looking to create a place where creative small business owners can plant their roots and thrive.
“What we’re really doing is creating a small business incubator...another outlet for some of these emerging small businesses owners in the area,” he says.
“People visiting Savannah aren’t familiar with the mom-and-pop start-up businesses south of Forsyth Park,” he adds.
Savannah Fire Flea was conceived as a centralized location where entrepreneurs can create awareness of their products and expand their business opportunities.
Jake’s connection with Brooklyn Flea opened up many unexpected business opportunities that might not have been available to him at an isolated brick-and-mortar store—like having his merchandise featured on HGTV and meeting with a PBS executive producer to discuss the possibility of being cast as a picker on an upcoming show.
When mentioning this, Jake humbly emphasizes that he doesn’t mean to toot his own horn; it’s just an example of the kinds of opportunities that can open up for everyone when small businesses band together to create their own critical mass.
While the immediate goal of Savannah Fire Flea is to fold its profits back into the growth and development the market, its long-term business plan includes brand partnerships with its vendors to help develop their infrastructure and media marketing strategies.
There is also a possibility of someday disbursing micro loans to small businesses; a more co-operative approach to its partnerships than those adopted by the Wall Street moneymen who helped fund the Brooklyn Flea.
When asked about the possibility of Savannah’s start-ups someday being priced out of the city they’re helping to create, Jake notes that Garden City and Pooler are already a step ahead of the curve, laying the grid work to attract Savannah’s creative commerce.
To this end, he is reaching out to the cities of the Hardeeville and Bluffton in hopes of further fortifying the creative community against the possible pitfall of its own expansion.
“The market is exclusive in terms of quality,” he says, “but not location.”
Savannah Fire Flea Grand Opening
Saturday May 2, Sunday May 3
10 a.m.–5 p.m.
324 Speedway Boulevard
The Savannah Fire Flea is 5 minutes away from downtown Savannah. Take the Talmadge Bridge over the Savannah River and take the very first right in South Carolina. The venue is a parking lot adjacent to the old fireworks stand.