The bazaar, the oldest newest idea for small businesses
In an FT column today Dave Eggers pines for the days when schools taught metal and woodworking. â€śIt doesnâ€™t all have to be keyboards and screens, does it?â€ť he asks.
It certainly doesnâ€™t.
Many small business in the U.S. are Â becoming part of a new wave of small-scale and super premium manufacturing. Thereâ€™s any number of examples to look at, like the plumbing parts manufacturing in Brooklyn, the artisanal chocolate makers and the distillers in Boston.
Thereâ€™s also no shortage of stories focusing on Brooklynâ€™s manufacturing boom. Turns out we are making things with our hands even if schools donâ€™t teach us how anymore.
Of course Brooklyn, with its close proximity to Manhattan and available factory space, canâ€™t be a model for every city that wants to develop a micro-manufacturing center specializing in pickles, bicycles and chocolate.
But thereâ€™s an old idea that Eggers touches on thatâ€™s taking hold in New York that other cities can and should appropriate. And itâ€™s such an old concept that Brooklyn canâ€™t even take credit for it. Itâ€™s the bazaar, as old as market capitalism itself.
In New York City, weâ€™ve seen a few bazaars sprout up in the last few years. Of course here theyâ€™re called â€śfleasâ€ť because this has a retro feel to it and sounds cooler than simply calling something a â€śmarket.” But make no mistake, these are nothing new. They are just updated variations of the old mall/market/bazaar.
Thereâ€™s my favorite, the Pop Up Flea, which returned this year bigger than ever and boasting a Microsoft sponsorship. And then thereâ€™s the mother of fleas, the Brooklyn Flea, an outdoor flea that seeks shelter in the old Williamsburg Bank building during colder months to attract consumers all year. Itâ€™s also grown a spinoff market for food vendors called Smorgasburg. And if thereâ€™s doubt about growth potential for these markets, consider one investor the Brooklyn Fleaâ€™s founders recently attracted: Goldman Sachs.
Goldman invested $25 million dollars to help the Brooklyn Flea build out a communal cooking space for food startups, as the New York Times reported. Thatâ€™s not the only food incubator in town either. Somewhat shockingly to Eggers, people have embraced his idea to build a communal market space for small business and manufacturers:
Every time I pitched it, I half-hoped someone would tell me it was a terrible or unworkable idea, because I have none of the concrete expertise â€“ in small manufacturing, real estate, renovating former mints â€“ necessary to make it happen. But so far, no oneâ€™s told me what I wanted to hear. Instead, too many people have said yes.
Eggers may prefer to think of himself as a writer and not an entrepreneur. But as the founder of a small but respected publishing empire, he shouldnâ€™t be so surprised by those â€śyeses.â€ť Â Hereâ€™s to Eggerâ€™s entrepreneurial instinct and to the old concept of the market, or the bazaar, or the flea…whatever you want to call it.
Image:Â A shop vendor waits for customers in Grand Bazaar of Istanbul March 3, 2010. REUTERS/Murad Sezer