Brett Singleton stands under a blue tent at a Flashbacks pop-up market, surrounded by a rainbow array of vintage apparel. He’s haggling with a customer over a gray “Jets” hoodie. He names a price. She asks if he’ll take less, since “the Jets stink this year.”
Flashbacks Recycled Fashions (known simply as “Flashbacks” by locals) has been a staple for secondhand goods in Gainesville for over 30 years. For just over a year, the business has been holding “pop up” markets where other local vendors can showcase their work.
At the most recent pop-up in November, rows of meticulously decorated booths lined the property in front of the Flashbacks building at 220 NW Eighth Ave. There was a vegan food truck, a live DJ and a wide variety of local artisans. Vendors sold everything vintage, repurposed and handmade — from clothes and art to hand-rolled, tobacco-free “smokables.”
Flashbacks will hold its next pop-up on Saturday, in time for last-minute holiday shopping.
Flashbacks’ owner Steve Nichtberger said although he’s running a business of his own, he likes to make space for others to succeed. As the second oldest consignment shop in town, he said he believes there’s enough business to share with others in his community.
“I believe there’s abundance,” he said. “There’s enough [to include others].”
Singleton was one of many at the event selling repurposed clothing. He said his company, “B” Easy Vintage and More, was inspired by his mom.
“She always kept my clothes — like all my good stuff all my essentials — clean, and I always had them for years,” he said. “And I like the old stuff.”
He sources his clothes from estate sales, thrift stores, flea markets, individual sellers — pretty much anywhere he can find a good deal.
“It’s better than fast fashion,” Singleton said. “Vintage pieces are unique, and if [you’re wearing] a vintage piece, nobody else will really have that on.”
Singleton said the pop-up events are a safe, fun way for people to get together and share in what they love.
“It’s a community,” he said. “It’s like a family.”
Next door to Singleton, another seller at the event was also inspired by her mom. Samantha Pollack sells tobacco-free, cannabis-free “smoke blends.” She said she watched her mom smoke cigarettes her whole life, and she wants to offer people a safer alternative.
“I watched her health decline because of tobacco,” she said. “So, I wanted to create something for people to have as an alternative for oral fixation, to combine with tobacco to help wean themselves off [of it]… and hopefully for people in my generation who have a smoking habit, [this] would be able to help them kick it earlier on before it’s too late.”
Pollack said sustainability is an important part of her practice. She always wanted to benefit her community with sustainable, local sourcing.
“Most of the ingredients are grown locally here in Gainesville,” she said. “Others, I supplement from certified organic farms around the country… Since the beginning of my business, I have always wanted to reduce waste and plastic [usage].”
Pollack also said she believes it’s important to support local businesses because they keep more of their money in the community.
Sustainability was a main theme among vendors at the market.
Dani Alonso, another vendor at the pop-up, said she likes to focus on what she calls “conscious consumption.” Alonso owns AguaDulce Clay Co. She sells handmade, small-batch ceramics — all made locally (and sustainably) in Gainesville.
Alonso sells items such as mugs, bowls, planters and clay jewelry. She also sells candles that are housed in ceramic containers she made. Once the candles are burned, the containers can be repurposed by her customers.
“I also really love clay because of that,” she said. “It uses all-natural materials; you recycle all of the clay you don’t end up using… I think the sustainability and the connection to the Earth and to community [is important].”
Alonso graduated from the University of Florida in 2016, and she said she’s honored to contribute to sustainability in her community at events like Sunday’s pop-up.
“It helps folks support the local economy and other local artisans,” she said. “It encourages people to connect with one another.”
Nichtberger said he’s seen a shift in the community during his time in Gainesville. He said he remembers a time when students would come to his shop and wait outside while their clothes were priced. At the time, they didn’t want to be associated with secondhand goods.
Now, people are lined up out the door to find a treasure new only to them. His customers thumb through racks of clothing, eager to repurpose a vintage find, to respond to compliments with “Thanks! It’s thrifted.”
Vendors said they’re eager to return for the event this week, and Nichtberger said he looks forward to the next event. More importantly, he said he’s happy that Flashbacks has become a space for community.
“People thrifting are usually doing two things: doing things they love and [being] environmentally friendly,” Nichtberger said. “That mindfulness tends to seek others, and that creates community.”