Friday, June 22, 2018

Flea market profile: The COD Street Fair

In Palm Desert, Calif., one community college has an unusual — and unusually effective — fund raiser. The College of the Desert Alumni Association operates a year-round open-air flea market that raises, on average, $500,000 annually. According to executive director Gene Marchu, the COD Street Fair has generated over $8.5 million for the college since it started 27 years ago, $7 million of that in the last 14 years. “That goes out in grants, gifts, and scholarships in support of the community college,” he says. “And with the budget cutbacks from Sacramento, that’s very important.” Last year was an unusually good year, bringing in $605,000.

A number of factors have kept the market profitable, both for the college and for the vendors who sell there. There is a food court featuring free Peruvian music. And the market brings in many travelers, especially in the winter. “We’re a major tourist attraction,” says Marchu. “We’re known for our high season, in February and March, when we can get perhaps 15,000 to 20,000 people per day.”

COD Street Fair vendor page

The COD Street Fair offers each vendor a Web page with contact info and photos. (click to enlarge)

And many shoppers who come are well-heeled. “We appeal to all ages, including the older demographic with discretionary income,” he adds. “That really does well for the vendors.”

The flea market is open weekends, 7 am to 2 pm most of the year, but only to noon in the summer.

The COD Street Fair sports 340 spaces, each one a 20 feet by 20 feet booth, at $460 per month. The market features new merchandise, with a farmers market and an arts and craft section. “You name it, we have it out here,” brags Marchu, who has been with the market for 14 years.

The flea market also focuses on vendors with a special Web site. Complete vendor information is on the Web site, with map location, phone number, links, and photos. “Vendors love it,” says Marchu. “They suggested we do it, we followed through on the idea, and we’re very pleased we did.”

“We’ve got great vendors,” he adds.

For more information on how to run an effective flea market or swap meet fund raiser, check out this article from FleaMarketZone.com. Art and photo credit, with thanks: COD Street Fair and James May.

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