The Cleveland Flea: Good stuff, Great Vibe at Sterle’s Country House

By Allison Carey, The Plain Dealer  – My assignment: Go to the Cleveland Flea, find five cool things that I like about it and take some pictures.

Yeah, right!

Life is too short to narrow things down that much. I loved all of my visit to the Cleveland Flea, except maybe the parking. There are a variety of vendors selling farm-fresh produce, jewelry, antiques, architectural salvage, vintage clothes, tchotchkes and furniture. There are food trucks, artisan food and drinks, live music, cute dogs and boozy snow cones. But, the best thing I found was the vibe. It feels like people are embracing Cleveland’s renaissance in a big, happy way.

Organized in the parking lot of of Sterle’s Country House at 1401 E. 55th Street near St. Clair Avenue, the monthly event has grown from about 20 artists in February to more than 100 vendors. Stop by and check it out for yourself 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 at Sterle’s, or same time/same place Saturday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Nov. 16.

Stephanie Sheldon of Indie Foundry, the producer of the Cleveland Flea, says the event is designed to revitalize the St. Clair neighborhood and connect local artists with the community. The Flea supports small businesses that don’t have a brick and mortar store, she says.

From what I saw during my visit last month, she’s making it work. The vendors and shoppers all looked like they were having a great day. Or, maybe they all just had a boozy snow cone.

I met many people who live in Cleveland and/or are opening businesses and studios in city’s awesome neighborhoods. I heard about Ohio City’s new hotspot, Hingetown at West 29th Street and Detroit Avenue, where Stephen Szelpal and Lynn Majewski have recently opened a holistic pet store called Kutya Rev Ohio City Dog Haven. They promote dog nutrition and sell locally made cool stuff such as pet jewelry and dog collars made from recycled seat belts.

In other tents, there were beautifully wrapped handmade soaps by Susie’s Scentualsand wooden fish and factory flower art by Bridget D. Ginley of Studio 404. And who doesn’t love a vintage pocketknife necklace by third-generation metal smith Mindi Burton. Her company Miotal, which means metal or unchanged in Irish, transforms old trinkets and things into wearable art.

If you’re into post-consumer glass that’s been melted, fused and reshaped, then Jennifer Worden’s up-cycled art and jewelry is worth checking out. I loved the cool yard flowers. And if you’re shopping for produce, stop by the booths run by Rooted In Cleveland and Case Western Reserve’s University Farm.

At Suite 22 Antiques, I wanted to buy up all of the old keys, which are a huge trend right now. Black Kitten Vintage had great high-end vintage clothes, shoes and housewares. I swear they had my grandmother’s fox trimmed coat. Then I sampled tea with Joy Skarupa of Sub Rosa Tea. Delish!

Rural Urban Stuff offered a tent full of Ohio-centric coasters, jewelry and wall art — most of it made from old records. You know, those black discs with the concentric circles and a hole in the middle? Who knew they’d melt into cool cuff bracelets and Ohio-shaped pendants.

I wanted all of the origami paper decorations from Victoria Pickett of I Hardly Even Know Her. And now my car proudly sports an Ohio sticker from Fizz Creative. Joe Kastelic at Play-Haus Design amazed me with his industrial furniture made with recycled materials. He owned a skateboard shop and says the furniture business started when someone liked a coffee table he threw together for his apartment.

As for jewelry, Anne Harrill had a ton to choose from in her Oceanne Whimsical Wearables booth, including pieces with stamped sayings. Liza Michelle Jewett Rifkin‘s jewelry features handpicked twigs from Ohio City that have been cast solid. She also uses things she finds in the woods, such as shed deer antlers and a raccoon skull. Her silver raccoon molar items are a conversation starter, for sure.

Popsmith offers small-batch, local fruit ice-pops and there are hand-rolled bagels from the guys at Cleveland Bagel. They have hearty traditional bagels with upscale, non-traditional cream cheese schmears such as blueberry-lemon-mint or Earl Grey tea- orange zest.

From all I saw, the Flea is a treasure.

Oh, and don’t let that thing I said about parking deter you … I almost always complain about parking!