The Randolph Street Market Attracts All Types

The sign hanging over the vendor’s stall reads, “Home is where you keep your stuff while you’re out getting more stuff.”

If anyone was looking for a perfect description of the Randolph Street Market, there it is.

The monthly market, located at Journeymen Plumbers Hall in the West Loop of downtown Chicago, is a haven for buyers and sellers alike of antiques, vintage material, clothing, jewelry and eclectic finds of all shapes and sizes. The variety of the goods sold at the market is matched only by the variety of the people who show up.

“We get people from all walks of life, all different types of people,” says Marc Pilibosian, an antique and vintage salesman from Royal Oak, Mich., who has peddled his wares at the Randolph Street Market for the past five years. “Collectors, a lot of young people who are here just for something to do, people from out of town… you name it.”

During the warmer months of the year, the market is held outdoors. But in the colder months, the market moves indoors and the event organizers fight to retain the unique feel of a street market.

“In the summertime, there are musicians outside,” Pilibosian says. “Different bands will play in different [parts of the market].”

As if to simulate the same effect, each ballroom and hallway is accented by music encouraging different moods for the different types of vendors that are grouped together. Jazz from the early 1900s plays behind the traditional antiques in the hallway downstairs. The showcase room upstairs blares fast-paced pop music for the “cooler” vintage and retro items.

Many of the vendors actually prefer the indoor style, especially those who provide the food each month. “It’s crazier when it’s outside,” says Javier Alvarez, 44, who works for the Bullhead Cantina (formerly known as Caoba Mexican Bar and Grill) in downtown Chicago.

The market has gained widespread recognition across the Chicagoland area over its nine years of existence. Glencoe native Sally Schwartz, who is still the current owner and coordinator of the market, started it. “I started it because there was nothing like it in downtown Chicago,” she says. “I used to go to shows like this, and it makes no sense that there wouldn’t be one in Chicago.”

Schwartz says that her show has become successful because of the vendors she has been able to attract. “They’re really top quality,” she says.

Pilibosian believes that there is another aspect to the Randolph Street Market’s ever-growing following. “They serve alcohol here, which is unusual for events like this,” he says. “Most antique shows are just antiques, for people who like antiques. We branch out a little more.”

Indeed, the crowd at this market is rowdier than one would expect. People flit from place to place and the cacophony fills the rooms and hallways. But there is one word that echoes throughout the market, one word that people seem to be saying over and over: stuff.

“We’re here for the stuff!” says the woman running past the art section to get to the vintage toaster booth.

“I love the stuff!” agrees the man eating his lunch in the food hallway.

Someone needs to buy that sign hanging at one of the vendor’s stalls. Then again, maybe it needs to stay on display at the Randolph Street Market. It’s that kind of place, anyway.

 

Cameron Albert-Deitch // MEDILL

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