We’ve already given you a bit of a rundown on where we’ll be this weekend. Our first stop (or should we say – first stop every weekend for the rest of the summer): the Hester Street Fair
. Why are we so excited about it? Well, simply put, there’s really nothing else like it on the island of Manhattan, or in New York City right now for that matter. Co-created by SuChin Pak, we got in touch with the always delightful journalist and friend of OC to get the low down on exactly what makes this fair so darn special.
Daria Radlinski: Last we heard from you, you mentioned you were on a bus traveling cross country… sounds awesome!
I have been on a bright, blue Pepsi Refresh bus...which is just as ridiculous as it sounds, traveling across the country, meeting the most inspiring young people doing the most amazing things to save the world! The Pepsi Refresh project
is a huge year-long program where Pepsi is giving away over a million dollars in grant money every month to fund the top voted ideas on the site. Literally, they're giving the money away, you just have to have a positive idea, get your friends to vote and the one with the most votes gets the cash. I'm traveling to some of the grant recipients along the way to document what they're doing with the money. It's epic, it's hectic and it's the most fun I've ever had. You can't imagine what people are up to in the middle of the country...it puts New York to shame...roller derby, silent discos, ghost riding whips...it's all on my blog
. I'm writing to you from Cherokee, Iowa and we left Times Square 3 weeks ago, traveled down the East Coast and are heading west. But I'm flying back to New York to help launch the Hester Street Fair!
DR: Tell us in your own words: what's this fair all about?
It's part flea market but it's mostly a space where the community can gather and have a real sense of what it means to live in this diverse and passionate neighborhood. The LES has its own vibe, like any pocket in New York City...The Fair is going to have the best rotation of vintage clothing, furniture, jewelry and of course FOOD--both prepared, cooked and farm fresh produce from Greenmarket! Something about being a New Yorker brings food passion to a new level and I think the LES has some of the best food around. But it's a fair
in the truest sense of the word. We have a huge community mission--there'll always be a rotating group of community organizations who are welcome to use our space as an extension of programs they are running and every weekend, we have a Kids Space where we'll have games, activities and healthy snacks for the little ones. There will always be something new at the Fair every weekend.
DR: Who are the vendors? How did u choose them?
Nearly all of the clothing is vintage and all the furniture is vintage. They're people who are passionate about what they find and sell. Each one has a great story. I think it's important to have people that sell good stuff, but it's equally important that they be sane and enthusiastic about their products. We have a lot of vintage collectors that sell their stuff to pay for cross country vintage trips...like they love it so much they just sell it to buy find more vintage. We had to have bikes, so we really pushed for Landmark Bikes for opening weekend because they have the range of cool, beautiful bikes. We wanted lobster rolls with less mayo and more LOBSTER so we found Luke's Lobster. We wanted to have Asian "street" food, so An Choi
was a clear choice. A lot of our vendors are first time sellers or people who are starting out trying to make a living doing what they love...like we have Macaron Parlour, a young pastry chef student who has a passion for Macarons...I mean like she dreams about insane flavors and combos--bacon, smores, gelato. We have Luke's Lobster who just opened up a tiny restaurant in the East Village last year and still gets his seafood from the town in Maine he grew up in. We have Daniel Holzman, the chef/owner behind The Meatball Shop, creating these insane natural snow cones with flavors like tamarind and lime, and banana and kiwi. He just can't help expressing himself through food. However, every weekend is an audition with the attendees "deciding", as no vendor has a permanent space. We want to be open to new and fresh faces every weekend.
DR: When planning the fair, was there anything you really pushed for or felt like you just HAD to have?
Most importantly, we HAD to have fresh farm produce. We really campaigned to have the Greenmarket
partner up with us to have their farmers at the site. It wasn't until they came on board that the whole vision for this space really came together. The Greenmarket gets hundreds of applications for every slot they have, so it's like winning the lottery if they choose your neighborhood...it's a privilege for us to have them there. The farmers don't really start to come in until the beginning of the summer, so I'm hoping they had a great grow season and we'll see them there soon! It's my dream to be able to go some place in the neighborhood where I can find the best vintage, eat the best food and shop for farm fresh goods. What more can a New Yorker ask for?
DR: The list of people who are organizing this fair is pretty interesting and varied – real estate developers, a journalist, and the director of digital media at Stars… How did you all come together to do this?
We were all friends before. Suhyun, the full time manager and co-founder is my brother.... so it's really a friends and family affair. Ron Castellano is a well known architect and is part of Santos Party House, but what a lot of people don't know about him is that his family comes from a long line of flea markets...this is what they've been doing for years. Adam, Suhyun and I have known each other for many years and we are all obsessed with flea markets--we go to Brimfield every year, stay at the same crappy motel and rummage through piles of the most insane bric-a-brac.
DR: Why Hester Street?
My brother, Suhyun and I live in Seward Park, Adam used to live across the street and Ron's office and apartment literally look into the fair space. This is our neighborhood, this is our community...we are trying to build something we'd like to see in the neighborhood.
DR: It’s great that you're getting a lot of the local businesses involved. Are you doing the same with the community and its residents? Do they play any role in the fair?
The community partners like the LES Bid, Education Alliance, the Greenmarket and GrowNYC are all a big part of who we are. We are planning to be a permanent fixture in the neighborhood, practically all year round and we couldn't do that without the support and help of our community partners. And we couldn't pull this off if we didn't have the most amazing board at Seward Park Coops, who own the lot, supporting us in every way. The residents of Seward Park and the LES community are really our "landlords"...we answer to them ultimately. If Hester Street Fair isn't something they see adding value to their every day lives, we won't be there.
DR: What are your favorite spots in the neighborhood, and what makes them so special?
The meatballs and ice cream sandwiches at The Meatball shop are insane. An Choi has the most delicious Vietnamese food with a NYC twist. Have you been to Formaggio Essex and experienced the joy of Ayse recommending the perfect pate or pasta? We don't have enough spaces to accommodate every place I love in this neighborhood.
DR: The neighborhood has changed so much in the past several years. Do you think this fair would have been possible without this sort of gentrification?
We're trying to balance the negative side to gentrification. The Hester Street Fair is open to the public and it's more than a place to shop and eat. We made a conscious effort to build spaces in the back so people could sit and enjoy the sun. We are working with the parks department to continue to clean up Seward Park and have people see it as a beautiful space. This is a meeting place for friends, families and residents.
DR: What's the most unexpected or unorthodox thing you'll find at the fair?
Kim Chee butter, gourmet flavoured corn nuts, gruyere covered pretzels and vintage men's "furnishings"--I don't know what that means, but I can't wait to find out.
hester street fair