Given the coming changes at 23rd and Jackson, the shuttered Red Apple in the shopping center acquired for Vulcan redevelopment can be a symbol of pretty much anything you want — gentrification, displacement, change. But last week, it was simply a giant shuttered space full of old grocery infrastructure that needed to be cleared out. The Punk Rock Flea Market was in full scramble mode to find its 2017 one-weekend home after previous plans fell through. So those shelves — and much much more — needed to come out.
“It looked like a grocery store,” PRFM organizer Josh Okrent tells CHS. “It had all the infrastructure of a grocery store. We just started tearing it all down.”
The Central District Red Apple closed in October as Vulcan readies plans to redevelop the store’s corner of 23rd and Jackson with a project that will create more than 500 new apartment units and 40,000 square feet of commercial space. With the closure, communities around 23rd and Jackson are left with a grocery gap. CHS wrote here about one small effort to try to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the area in the wake of Red Apple’s exit.
The PRFM, meanwhile, continues to pop up in spaces on the verge of major change. In 2016, the market took over the old REI/Kelly Springfield/Value Village building for one last vintage hurrah for the old structure before redevelopment.
At 23rd and Jackson this year, the scrap metal guys made a good haul, Okrent said, and even some of the old refrigerators from the store were claimed as volunteers worked around the clock to get the space ready for this year’s flea market after the original plan to hold the sale in a Beacon Hill bowling alley fell through. Things were going well enough until the work crew came back one morning and found three inches of water in the back of the old grocery store — copper thieves had stopped by and liberated some of the building’s infrastructure.
With that mess cleaned up, too, and the grocery store space cleared out, the flea market went off without any other major hitches this weekend in the Central District.
Shoppers looking through vintage goods and crafted treasures might not have realized how much effort went into this year’s event. It’s not very punk rock to try so hard but “it was a haul,” Okrent said. “We’ve never ever worked so hard to do this.”
UPDATE 12/13/2017: Turns out, the work wasn’t over when this year’s flea market ended. After criticism of a situation involving complaints and a disturbance at the market about a 2017 vendor selling a t-shirt making a joke about white supremacists — a shirt with the tasteless image you may have seen floating around the internet of the Pillsbury Dough Boy sporting a Hitler mustache and making a Nazi salute with the words “White Flour” printed below — Okrent has posted an apology for his handling of the situation:
On Sunday, Dec 10 there was an altercation between a vendor and a community member. That guest to the PRFM, saw that there was a racist shirt design on display and got upset, which is their right. This protestor proceeded to tear that shirt off the wall and send other stuff to the floor and directly address this vendor in their outrage. Our team members heard about the disturbance from other vendors and guests who felt threatened, and we handled it as best we could in the moment. The protester was scaring visitors and vendors around them and was asked to leave by our security team. The vendor was immediately told to get rid of her racist paraphernalia and we investigated to see if their images were micro signals to undercover fascists. Since getting time to catch our breath, we understand it was very clearly a racist t-shirt. Whether it was malice or ignorance, this vendor will not be welcomed back to the PRFM.
The full statement from Okrent is below.