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The High-Concept Flea Market Drawing Vintage Fans to Central Maine

Winthrop’s buzzy pop-up market The Vault is deftly curated — and a hit.

The Vault vintage market, in Winthrop, Maine
By Adrienne Perron
Photographed by Dave Dostie
From our May 2022 issue

When she moved from Georgia 10 years ago, Nicole Stanford had no idea the size and dedication of Maine’s vintage-loving community. But since starting Winthrop’s monthly vintage market, The Vault, in 2020, she’s watched customers line up outside an hour before opening, found herself waitlisting potential vendors, and recorded more than $40,000 in sales in a single day. “It’s beyond anything I ever imagined,” she says.

Stanford and her husband, Jesse, own Freckle Salvage Company, a vintage-goods and Maine-made-gifts shop on Winthrop’s lately energetic Main Street. They launched The Vault after discovering their rented storefront had a 3,500-square-foot basement they didn’t know existed. Knowing how tough it is to start a business, she says, they figured, why not use it to give Maine makers and vintage dealers a recurring space to set up shop? Then, after six months of hosting a dozen or so vendors, the Stanfords moved The Vault to a 6,000-square-foot former textile mill down the street, roughly doubling the pop-up’s capacity. Last year, in the lead-up to Christmas, the market welcomed more than 2,000 customers in a weekend.

Vault vendors, who specialize in clothing, furniture, décor, and plenty more, each get a section of floor to set up a miniature storefront. Each month’s market has a theme — April is “Garden Party” and May “Upta Camp” — and vendors design their space and curate their wares to match. On a visit in February, the theme was “Perfect Pairings.” Vendor Kristina Stewart, whose Yellow Bird Works shop stocks gently used housewares and décor, went with a country mouse/city mouse motif, with “fresh eggs” signs and a $4 chicken feeder alongside elegant glass bowls and small ceramic sculptures. Nearby, Christine Slader opted to pair Frida Kahlo and flowers — all the funky, colorful clothing, scarves, purses, and more at her Boho Birdie stall were inspired by one or the other. She’d also set up a selfie station with a colorful backdrop and a bevy of try-on accessories. That’s typical of Slader, Stanford says, who tends to go all out staging her space — and often helps others restage theirs to keep the market looking fresh.

“We are part of a family here,” Slader says. “These are my new friends, we don’t just sell together on one weekend. We have dinner, we go thrifting, we support each other through ups and downs.”

The Vault is open one weekend a month, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Upcoming dates include April 23–24 and May 21–22. 149 Main St., Winthrop. 207-395-5429.