Detroit…My Hometown and Flea Market Mecca

by , on
Feb 17, 2015

“D” is more than the 4th letter of the alphabet. It is the “313”, the “Motor City”, the city the French founded and the auto industry built.

Detroit is hometown to Kid Rock, Madonna, Eminem, Walter Reuther, Tim Allen, Gilda Radner, Lily Tomlin, Dianna Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Tommy Hearns, Joe Lewis, Mitch Albom, The White Stripes, Detroit Lions football, Detroit Tigers baseball, Detroit Red Wings hockey… and me!

Call it what you may, but don’t call this Renaissance city and its neighboring communities a crumbling, decaying metropolis with nothing to offer but crime and corruption. Don’t assume that it is nothing more than what is sadly portrayed in media around the world.

We are proudly, Detroit!

Hold up your  hand. Michiganders use our hands to show you where we live! We sit at the base of your thumb, in our “mitten” state.

Detroit is home to some of the most successful global corporations.  We proudly exult our heritage at the Detroit Institute of Arts , the Detroit Historical Museum  , the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History  , and the world famous “The Henry Ford” museum . Each of these is a living institution to preserve the accomplishments of our great city.

But did you know…that beside our famous forefathers, cultural gems and beloved sports teams, Detroit and her surrounding suburbs are also home to some of the most fabulous flea markets, garage sales and vintage finds, anywhere? I travel flea markets around Europe, as well as frequent the ones in the “D” often, and our fleas and thrifting opportunities stand up to the world’s best competition for great finds and cultural adventures!

To begin your journey, head to our ground zero. Standing in the same spot where the French landed in 1701 to settle our fine city, is the Detroit riverfront area .  Ample parking in the area allows you to begin a day with fresh air amid joggers and leisure walkers along the Detroit River boardwalk, Riverwalk.  Take in your first breaths of all that Detroit has to offer.  Look south and you see our Canadian neighbor, Windsor, Ontario. Yes, in Detroit you go south to enter Canada! Once welcomed, hop in your car for a short drive north, east or west and you will find a continual path of flea markets and some of the best garage sale opportunities in the US. Let your flea market adventures begin…Detroit style.

Each year when I begin to mark my calendar of “must-do” treasure hunting events, I discover that I likely won’t have time to leave Michigan! Nor, will I likely even have time to take in all of the fabulous flea markets in “Pure Michigan” , in a single year. Decisions, decisions…which ones will make it to the top of my list this year?

Nestled squarely inside the city limits you will find:

This smaller event boasts, not only a great flea market opportunity, but also guided tours of historic Fort Wayne. Military history, antiques and an array of collectibles to pawn through. How’s that for a fun day in Detroit?

  • The Eastern Market district.

Daily and year round, but go on Saturday to get the full market experience.

This, city-within-a-city, bustling weekend market is centered around sheds of fresh Michigan produce, farm products, plants and products. Around the periphery of the food stalls you will be entertained by local street musicians and find the resurrection of early Detroit architectural charms now housing second hand shops, restaurants, wine, cheese and fresh meat and fish warehouses. Creak upon the wooden floors of antique, boutique and specialty shops as you step out of the forest of live nursery foliage, and imbibe in the pleasures of the unique wares around the square that defines the boundaries of the market. Ride the antique pulley elevator to the top floor of the cheese shop and pick your favorite European delicacy, seasonal decoration or Detroit souvenir.

Whatever you do…don’t eat before you come here. Whether fighting your olfactory senses for an “Oh My God Burger”, one pound of the perfectly marbled beef, sizzling on the open pit in front of you, or just nibbling on free samples hawked along your stroll through the open air market by artisan epicureans, your food choices won’t get any easier as you try to justify hunger vs. gluttony. Oh look…a beignet food truck!

Starting early in the morning? I recommend a Bloody Mary at Vivios! It just puts you in the right mood.

  • The Boston-Edison Annual Attic Sales, either the 2nd or 3rd weekend of August. The 2015 date is not yet available online. Check google for an update.

This is not a flea market, but an annual “garage” sale from the homes in an historic village within the City of Detroit. I list it here because it is one of my annual favorites and an unforgettable experience.

I love the atmosphere of the old Detroit mansions in this tree lined neighborhood tucked in a pocket of Detroit where many of Detroit’s early movers and shakers, automotive and manufacturing industry founders, planted their roots. Occasionally there is an opportunity to step inside the majesty of one of these solid oak trimmed, wet plaster walled homesteads, to ascend to the wide planked oak stairs to the third or fourth level among the memories of residents past, and live briefly in a moment of high society. Rub your palm over the bald patina of the open staircase. The air is thin up here, but some real treasures can be unearthed if you can accept the challenge.

Listen to the song of fine crystal as you carefully caress the rim of antique Waterford goblets set out on the massive dining room table and priced to sell. Blow the dust off of the old dental school yearbook of the former owner’s alma mater to get a glimpse of the heritage of a former homesteader. Gently fondle fine linen couture from days gone by. Step back in time while you contemplate once-in-a-lifetime purchase opportunities. Even the squeakiest wallets are silenced when you are enticed by the perfect find. You have preserved an historic treasure.

An absolute must-stop if you are in the area during the dates of the sale.

Get there early, take cash and tuck it in your fanny pack.

Sunday is flea market day in this historical market. Antiques, vintage, collectibles, fresh food and breads. There are many permanent vendors with a bit higher end booths as well as one-timers unloading Grandma’s estate. Price range is all over the place, so if your purse strings are a bit tight, you will still bag a bargain. Plan to spend all day in this trendy, fashionable northern suburb Sunday sale. Lots to pick through at the market including local micro-breweries and a gastronomes delight!

A short drive north of 8 Mile Road and you are only minutes away from Oakland County’s oldest and largest flea market in Pontiac. This indoor/outdoor market is huge. Bins full of tools, costume jewelry, flatbeds loaded with moving-sale furniture, NASCAR memorabilia, Avon, clothing, electronics, typical garage sale offerings. It’s all here. If your stomach is growling, whet your appetite with carnival fare! Lots of deep fried everything. Clean, safe, free and a fun way to spend a Saturday or Sunday picking! Check with the weather forecaster to take in both the indoor and outdoor offerings at Dixieland on fair weather days.

  • Greenmead Summer Flea Market  in the neighboring city of Livonia, bordering Detroit. While I have never been to this flea market, I’m told by my antiquing friends that it is a fabulous stop. A bit higher end with lots of repurpose possibilities, antiques and collectibles. It is typically held the first Saturday of June, from 10:00 to 4:00. There is a $2.00 admission fee and free parking. It is recommended to bring a wagon!

As you can see…the Motor City is hopping with opportunities to expand your flea market experiences as well as share our native appreciation for all that is Detroit.

Summers in the “D” for any flea market enthusiast, would not be complete without also devoting at least one weekend to the institution of  “garage saleing”.  Some of the best second hand bargains in the land are found in and around this area at local garage sales. I’m going to devote a future blog to these spring, summer, fall rituals.


Stop back soon and have your calendar handy. You, like me, will have a hard time trying to decide whether to freestyle or map your plan around the “D”. Gotta love those new apps that can help you navigate from sale to sale to pack as much into a day as your energy allows!

Thanks for stopping in. Get in touch if you will be swinging through the area and I’ll give you tips on my secret areas for the best thrifting!

See you again soon.