Norfolk Small Business Holds Facebook Flea Market To Keep Business Rolling
Mrs. Pinkadot in Norfolk's Ghent neighborhood has about 6,000 square feet of ever-changing collectibles. Vintage and handmade furniture, jewelry, art -- everything, including the (vintage) kitchen sink.
It's truly never the same store twice. Proprietor Joan Wilkening, aka “Mrs. Pinkadot,” said that’s by design.
“We don't have a warehouse full of the same thing sitting in the back,” Wilkening said. “Everything is one of a kind. If you see it you better get it because it might be gone in an hour, you know, or in a week.”
Wilkening manages 30 vendors in the shop and multiple consigners who bring in the majority of goods on a monthly, or even weekly, basis. She said she’s responsible for these people.
“If we don’t make money, we can’t buy food,” Wilkening said.
She made the tough decision to close the store last week, as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Virginia.
“My fear was that we would be bringing in all these crowds of people into a store where we shouldn't be having crowds,” Wilkening said. "I don't want to add to the problem, I want to help prevent the problem from spreading.”
Other than the winter shopping season, she said the timing couldn’t be worse. Wilkening said the store’s biggest sale of the year is in the spring, and was scheduled for March 21.
A store like Mrs. Pinkadot isn’t optimal for static online shopping, but Wilkening used Mrs. Pinkadot Facebook page to stream small sales before. She decided to take a chance on streaming a bigger sale to replace the spring flea market on Saturday night. Instead of sitting a table with a small selection of special-priced items, she would visit every vendor’s booth and offer their wares.
The Facebook sale lasted for more than four hours. It was a success under the circumstances, with more than 80 sales made, many high-ticket items. One vendor says she’ll now be able to make her rent.
"It was spectacular," Wilkening said after the event.
Still, she admits that sales have been five times this amount at the regular on-site flea market. For now, she’s planning more online sales, possibly every week. She and her vendors are also streaming live events from the store Tuesdays through Fridays while the store is closed — which will include crafts, painting and conversation.