With Mother’s Day fast approaching, you may be tempted to grab some generic item from a big-box retailer for the special women in your life. But if you’re anywhere near Tuscaloosa, Sylvia Parker, Jamie Cicatiello and Lori Watts have a better idea.
The three women are the creative and curatorial force behind one of Alabama’s most unusual shopping experiences, the 5th Street Vintage Market. Now in its fifth year, the market is held in the spring and fall, on the first Sunday of the month, and again in December for the holidays. Vendors are curated and sell vintage and antique clothing, jewelry, linens, records and more.
“You can find something really unique, that’s special,” said Parker. “Something you’re not going to be able to find in a chain store.”
They started the market in 2012 when they found themselves having to travel out to state in order to vend their vintage goods. Parker is a web designer who specializes in vinyl records. Cicatiello sells clothing, housewares, furniture and original art from her Tuscaloosa store, Grace Aberdean Habitat Alchemy, and does reupholstering. Watts operates her own store, This Ol’ Thing Vintage, inside Grace Aberdean. She also does estate sales and has a cult following for her jewelry finds.
“There are several old-fashioned flea markets, but they tend to open their doors to all vendors,” said Watts. “We try to stay away from the whole ‘flea’ aspect. We saw that Tuscaloosa needed a space for vendors to gather to sell vintage and antiques. We really wanted this to be curated and to bring in the things that we love. We’re just glad we created our own here.”
In order to sell at the 5th Street Vintage Market, you must be selected. Sellers email submissions explaining what they carry. The women get together and discuss each request and come to a decision. The result is 20 core vendors, with another 20 or so that cycle in and out, and 300-500 attendees.
“We have to stay true to our vision,” said Cicatiello. “The synergy between the three of us works really well. With day jobs like estate sales and selling vintage, it’s all connected.”
But for the women, as with their vendors and customers, it’s not really about selling stuff so much as it is sharing a passion. They live this.
“We dress like this all the time,” Cicatiello laughed. “When we go out, I tell my friends, ‘You’ve got 20 minutes to meet me because if not, I’m going to keep putting on more jewelry.’”
People love vintage for different reasons. For Cicatiello it’s tactile – seeing things made from atypical materials like glass or plastic – and tracing the history of ideas through the styles of the times. Parker also finds interest in the historical angle and revels in the quality, durability and style of these objects. Watts likes to see the effect certain pieces have on customers, as fond memories often come flooding back to shoppers.
Despite recent articles claiming that younger generations are not interested in inheriting their parents’ and grandparents’ heirlooms, customers come for all the same reasons mentioned above, especially the memory and nostalgia aspects.
“It’s not so much that they don’t want the heirlooms,” said Watts. “They don’t want the baggage. But I still think they want a piece of their past and this generation is looking for things that bring them joy. We deal in clothes and jewelry and usable things and there will always be a market for that because of fashion. What goes around comes around.”
So, what will you find at 5th Street Vintage Market?
“Ours is different because of the community of people. Artists and people who collect, and people who have their own businesses,” said Parker. The focus is definitely on vintage – clothing, records, jewelry, linens, signage, shoes, quilts – but they also allow some original art, handmade artisan items, and baked goods, as long as they fit with the theme. In addition, they sell hot dogs for charity at each market.
“And hugs,” said Cicatiello. “We like to give hugs.”
IF YOU GO
There are two more markets for the spring season:
May 7 and June 4
Time: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Northport Farmer’s Market Pavilion
4150 Fifth Street, Northport, AL
Check the Facebook page for fall and holiday dates.