Sunday at The BRICK, Southtown’s Newest Pop-up Market

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There are few things better on a lazy Sunday afternoon than brunch and a little shopping therapy. For those of us who dislike malls, we indulge in visiting antiques and oddities stores. BRICK Marketplace – a self-described “curiosities pop-up” – located at 108 Blue Star, is a new venture that brings an eclectic range of vendors under one roof. Doors open Sunday at noon and close around 5 p.m.

BRICK Marketplace is the brainchild of Elizabeth Ciarfeo, who – along with partner Mike Looney and their respective spouses – are renovating the former Jump-Start Performance Co. into a multi-use space. In the coming months, it will be used as a dance club, a photography and performing arts studio, and a Sunday market.

“We strive for eclectic merchants that can bring something different to every market,” Ciarfeo said. The first iteration of the market last weekend effectively executed this concept: artists, musicians, and even aerialists were on hand, complemented by vendors selling jewelry, pet accessories, vintage clothes, antiques, and more.

A variety of vendors are on tap at BRICK Marketplace. Photo by Page Graham.

Page Graham for the Rivard Report

A variety of vendors are on tap at BRICK Marketplace. Photo by Page Graham.

To ensure there is adequate variety, no more than three vendors of each type are allowed at a time. In addition, the market’s relatively small size gives it an intimate feel.

The goal is to “continue to grow and bring unique market experiences to Southtown,” Ciarfeo said.

After just one event, the formula seems to be paying off. While singer-songwriter Michael Martin performed in the corner, visitors were encouraged to lounge on sofas placed around the stage. Nearby, Aerial Horizon held demonstrations and encouraged visitors to try out the silk ropes for themselves – kids were especially enchanted by this. On the other side of the stage, Jake Zollie Harper was offering up his hand-blown glass creations.

Kids were automatically attracted to Aerial Horizon. Photo by Page Graham.

Kids were naturally attracted to Aerial Horizon. Photo by Page Graham.

Nearby, Poppy Luce sold jewelry created from ammunition, and World on a String was purveying an assortment of necklaces, bracelets and more. Antiques were spread out here and there, with Yeya’s Antiques and Oddities holding center stage with a large metal hippopotamus and circus-related objects. Vintage clothing from New York City by Clare Looney was a popular stop, as people searched for 1960s clothing for the then upcoming Blue Star Red Dot gala event.

The occasional well-behaved dog was seen strolling through, pausing to sniff the treats offered up by PAWsitively Sweet Bakery. Collar Expressions was offering custom pet collars and other accessories, while It’s a Cat’s Life was selling cat-themed items to raise money for pets seeking a permanent home.

Franco Mondini-Ruiz shows off his latest portrait. Photo by Page Graham.

Franco Mondini-Ruiz shows off his latest portrait. Photo by Page Graham.

But it was Franco Mondini-Ruiz who proved to be the showstopper. Tucked away in a back corner, he spent the afternoon painting portraits on the spot and regaling all those around him with quick quips and tantalizing tales. Best of all, he was offering discounted “San Antonio prices” at this event. His work fetches significant prices in New York.

Mondini-Ruiz is a wonder to watch at work. At one point he was painting five portraits simultaneously, pausing in the middle to do a “five-minute” portrait of the Liberty Bar’s Katie McKee, who was on her way to work.

Mondini-Ruiz will be back this Sunday. His performance is as entertaining as the works he creates. Other vendors who were announced at press time include Agosto Cuellar, In The Weeds Natural Skin Care, Shop Roshambo, and Yeyas Antiques & Oddities. Equal Play will be spinning a Paris/French music mix, featuring 50-60’s French pop.

Anne Alexander and Mike Looney sit on the front porch, admiring portraits by Franco Mondini-Ruiz. Photo by Page Graham.

Anne Alexander and Mike Looney sit on the front porch, admiring portraits by Franco Mondini-Ruiz. Photo by Page Graham.

Can BRICK Marketplace succeed with such a concept?

“We have had such great feedback from the first market. We hope to bring great acts and products to our area and try to become a destination market in the future,” Ciarfeo said.

But success is not certain. Others have tried similar concepts and failed. Under the careful guidance of Ciarfeo and Looney, however, it’s hard not to be optimistic. Ciarfeo’s plan to limit the number of each type of vendor will help retain the market’s eclectic feel. Market interest matters, too.

“It’s also certain the buzz around this event will mean that more and more patrons will be visiting each time,” he said. “We’re still working out the market dates. Don’t want to have too many in a row and lose audience. (The month of) May was for testing ideas.”

Spring weather and construction on South Alamo Street make a good case for a bike ride to the BRICK Marketplace on Sunday – or head down towards Brackenridge High School and use the Eagleland River Walk extension to get to Blue Star. We’ll be there, looking for another unique find to grace our home.

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