June 16, 2013 By Bill Parry
Thousands of curious visitors turned out for the grand opening of the LIC Flea & Food on Saturday, which was held in the 24,000 sq ft parking lot at 5-25 46th Avenue.
Ninety vendors set up shop under white tents shading attendees from the brightest sun in nearly a week. The retailers sold everything from fresh produce to Greek yogurt, pottery to pickles, as well as clothing, rugs, art and jewelry.
Several noteworthy restaurants participated such as Manducatis Rustica, Alobar, M. Wells Dinette and Testaccio. They were joined by smaller vendors like Bill’s Balls Artisan Meatballs—which is a husband and wife operation that typically sells their artisanal meatball sandwiches at street fairs.
A dining area was set up where foodies enjoyed other delicacies like lobster rolls and empanadas.
As the temperature began to rise, the line for Jersey City-based Lizzmonade grew longer. Sweetleaf did a brisk business with a variety of iced coffees, iced teas and espresso.
While the food tents were busy all afternoon, there was less activity around other vendors like ArtPhoto New York of Hicksville, Long Island. On display, the artist showcased dozens of photos printed on canvas and mounted on handmade wood art boxes.
The artist, Kirill Poliakov, said that there was plenty of interest in his work, but not much in the way of sales. “It’s a feeling out process on the first day,” Poliakov said, adding, “They’ll think about it and come back maybe tomorrow, maybe next week.”
Astoria’s Steven Tibaudo was selling handmade bow-ties that he creates and sells on the Internet out of his apartment on Ditmars Ave. and 31st St. “When I heard about the LIC Flea I said I’m so there,” adding that, “It’s nice to do business seeing human beings instead of doing everything online.”
The vendor that drew the most attention was Ice Riders NYC, three young people from Astoria with a unique way to make flavored ices. Instead of hand shaving a block of ice, Jet Thomason designed a bicycle powered machine to do the work.
His girlfriend, Chelsea Barker, provided the pedal power, while his friend, David Burdick, assembled and served the ices. “We don’t have a brick and mortar business,” Barker said, adding, “We go to street fairs and parties…this is perfect for us.”
Barker figured that she had cycled 5 or 6 miles by midday and didn’t seem to mind. “We think it’s a cool-fun-silly thing to do, and it burns calories and pounds, too,” she said, adding, “We’ll be doing it every weekend throughout the season.”
Sponsors were pleased with the grand opening, according to Dana Frankel, District Services Manager for the LIC Partnership: “It turned out to be bigger than we thought,” Frankel said, adding, “It’s such a great way to draw people to the restaurants and other businesses in the area.”
The LIC Flea & Food will be open every Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 6pm. It’s scheduled to run until October, but it might be extended to November if the weather holds.