A Vendor\’s Take On The Mile High Flea Market

By Barb Tobias
NABBW’s Thrifting Expert

Enthralled by the grandeur of the Mile High Flea Market, I took the four-day challenge.

As a shopper and as a vendor, I visited this sprawling bazaar, farmers market and antiques fair northeast of Denver on a consecutive Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

This is the oldest of the area\’s flea markets and a virtual Disney World for resale devotees. Earlier this year, its owners ditched a rebranding effort, so once again its official name, and the one the event launched with in 1975, is Mile High Flea Market.

First, I took a tour of the 80-acre site at 7007 E. 88th Ave. (at Interstate 76) with chief executive Rob Sieban.

“One of the things that makes the Mile High Flea Market so special is that even after 35 years, it\’s always new,” Sieban says. “With an average of 3,000 sellers every weekend, you just never know what you\’re going to find. In the spring, I saw a woman selling the most incredible fresh-cut irises in dozens of colors, and last month there was a mother and her daughters who came out and sold their handmade headbands and hair clips. …

“Just last weekend, we had someone here selling a collection of super-cool vintage toys and another guy selling handmade flies for fly fishermen,” Sieban continues. “Every time you come to the flea market, you find something new.”

Later, I hung around Mile High\’s busy “garage sale” streets and searched for deals. I roamed the makeshift city, combed through its stalls and eventually left with a wall mirror, a kettle, a necklace and a lamp. (Shopping carts are rented on site.)

But I also wanted to get a feel for Mile High\’s inner workings, see how the vendors prospered, and make a buck or two selling my own stuff. So I rented a booth, which range in price from $20 for a single day to $70 for the weekend.

Parched (adult) shoppers at the Mile High Flea Market might opt for a chelada, the Mexican drink made with beer, lime juice, tomato juice, assorted sauces and spices. The market boasts eclectic food and shopping options.

The setup

Arriving early Thursday morning, the designated setup day each week, I quickly found my “garage sale” spot, thanks to a helpful parking attendant. The market\’s north and south streets are identified by letters; numbers designate the avenues running east and west.

I soon glimpsed the massive coordination involved in running this retail compound, which employs about 350 people. It follows that the place was impeccably clean; not a wrapper nor a scrap in sight. The bathrooms even have attendants.

Around noon, a cart arrived to deliver three tables I had reserved for my weekend booth. Naively thinking my tent was secured, I set forth arranging my secondhand furniture, home accents, linens and fashions . Little did I realize the force of the wind here that can whip through at breakneck speed. Gust after gust pummeled my cover until one mighty whoosh lifted it like a kite.

Luckily, there were a few other vendors around to help with my recovery. I promptly reserved four cement-filled weights, which are offered for inexperienced newcomers.

By day\’s end, I locked down my booth and approached a guard patrolling the area, concerned about leaving my merchandise overnight. The guard assured me that the entire compound is regularly patrolled and that my goods would be safe.

I made the slow trek home, exhausted but expectant.

To market I went

Arriving at 6 a.m. Friday, I noticed that the market was still only a third full. But the hustle and bustle of those vendors was infectious. Many of the veteran sellers raised awnings and arranged booths with lightning speed. Soon, delicious smells wafted my way from the food vendors scattered throughout the market. According to Sieban, there are more than 25 places to eat at Mile High.

By 7 a.m., customers began to arrive. Friday proved to be the slowest in buying traffic, but several of the shoppers were serious collectors on the hunt for a significant score.

Saturday offered a new wave of vendors along with a throng of loyal thrifters. More stalls lured shoppers with bargains.

But Sunday made me a real believer. Every square inch of concrete was alive with shoppers and sellers hawking furniture, art, jewelry, kitchenware and tools. The farmers market, alive with color, boasted acres of fresh produce. Kids squealed with delight at the theme park as Sunday is “family day” at Mile High.

The layout

Mile High is divided into sections, with maps available upon entry.

Because it is a year-round venue, the southern portion of the compound is lined with permanent fixtures such as a coffee shop, women\’s boutiques, eclectic and vintage home décor, a boutique carrying retro jewelry made by local designers, and Antique Alley. There is also a new 25,000-square-foot event center that hosts music and food festivals.

The site\’s amusement park wraps around the east end of the flea market. Its farmers market dominates the five central lanes, and the “garage sale” area rounds up Mile High\’s western and northern sections.

The upshot

I survived my four-day run. Next time, I will stock one less tent.

On the plus side, my garage is less cluttered, my pocket jingles with new-found cash, and for four days I stuffed myself with turkey legs, corn on the cob and some amazingly good ribs.

Barb Tobias is a professional speaker and inspiring coach who renovates lives, homes and wardrobes by sticking her curious little nose into other people’s “thrifty business.” After a lifetime of transforming trash into treasure, this savvy mistress of thrift shares her secrets to finding deals, repurposing before tossing, reconstructing the tattered and renewing things others view as passé in her recent release…Tossed & Found; Where Frugal is Chic. Her “tell all” book is not simply a journey of personal transformation, but teaches a newly frugal nation how to purchase, purge and profit from thrift.

Barb Tobias, author, speaker, thrift specialist, and frugal decorating consultant is a hopeless Thrift-a-holic. Lauded as the frugally chic purveyor of an environmentally conscious nation, Barb' s release, Tossed & Found, gives the reader a birds-eye-view of the riches stashed within the dimly lit coffers of the thrift world. Barb Tobias is available for speaking engagements, workshops, guest appearances and media events. 1-877-711-DIVA (3482)