Guest Post: Rose Bowl Flea Market
Written By: Eva Kosmas
The Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, California is home to one of the largest flea markets on the west coast, with over 2,500 vendors and an eclectic mix of wares ranging from hanging succulent arrangements and handmade jewelry to vintage armoires and artisan cutlery. If you look closely, you’ll see that the real treasures of the Pasadena flea market lie in the bounty of antique kitchen wares. Whether you’re looking for authentic crystal aperitif glasses, sterling silver platters, or still-functioning vintage ovens, you’ll be able to find it here and with a very reasonable price tag.
One of my favorite finds was an old baker’s pantry, also known as a hoosier’s cabinet, which the vendor found at a local swap meet. The vintage cabinet was originally used by bakers and housewives and comes complete with a pull-out metal countertop that was used for rolling out large slabs of dough. One of the cabinet doors had a cookbook holder attached to it and there were several shelves and cubbies inside for storing spices and various other ingredients.
These pieces were mainly built and used in the Midwest, hence the name “hoosier“, which is a nickname for residents of the state of Indiana. With a little love it would make a beautiful china cabinet, and for $150 it’s quite affordable for such a large piece. Especially when you think of the stories behind it, the people who have used it, and the food that has come from it over the years. Another favorite item to browse is the antique canning jars; there’s such a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors that it’s easy to find one that suits whatever storage purpose you had in mind.
The vendors at this flea market are professionals, they look long and hard for their wares, frequenting swap meets, garage sales, estate sales, and rural antique shops until they find the type of piece they’re looking for. One of the vendors I spoke with said that finding the perfect piece is mostly luck…but with the amount of searching they do, they’re pretty much bound to come across something of note eventually. They usually get their pieces for a pretty good deal and do their best to pass the savings down to the purchaser.
That being said, they welcome a bit of bargaining and are used to being flexible about the price, so don’t feel the least bit timid about haggling. If you’re looking for flatware or dishes, there’s plenty of that too. You’ll come across at least one vintage flatware bin, where a mix match of old silverware pieces sell for $1 a piece. The array of dishes and serving platters is so wide that it can be fairly overwhelming at times if you don’t know what you’re looking for. From 70′s-style wooden salad bowls to early 20th century fine China and intricate Japanese tea sets, you’ll find it all.
Photo Source: Eva Kosmas
Guidelines for Shopping Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Flea Market:
- Bring water. It is so, so hot in Pasadena and very sunny. You can always buy water at the Rose Bowl, but it’s expensive so I recommend bringing your own. Also, sunscreen.
- Bring cash. Some vendors accept cards but most don’t, and the ATMs located outside the market charge a small fee.
- Unless you are really interested in every single booth, don’t stop at every single booth. There are so many vendors (2,500!) that stopping at each one and looking at each item would take more than the day the flea market is open.
- The flea market is organized in sections. The first time I went, I was greeted by tent after tent of new items; as in, not previously used. I was looking for vintage chairs and was disappointed until I realized the vintage section was on the other side of the Rose Bowl. This leads to the next suggestion…
- Use the map inside the big pamphlet they hand you when you walk in. It looks like a small weird newspaper, but if you open it up and flip a few pages in past the ads, there’s a large map of the Rose Bowl with general guidelines with what to find in each part. Very helpful when all you can see from your perspective is a mass of hundreds of tents.
- Remember where you parked. Take a good look around and find some sort of marker. The parking area for the flea market is in a giant grass field, and if you weren’t paying attention when you parked, finding your car in the hot sun while toting back your flea market finds will not be an enjoyable experience.
- Be courteous to the crowd. About 20,000 buyers visit the flea market every month, so to keep things flowing, don’t do things like stop in the middle of a narrow walkway to look at your phone. Just hop into a vendor tent or to the side of the pathway if you need a moment to take a breather.
- I know I said it before, but I’ll say it again: don’t be afraid to haggle. Vendors will not be offended, they’re used to bargaining a bit with buyers when selling their wares.
- Have fun! Don’t let all the suggestions or crowds intimidate you, the Rose Bowl flea market is a blast with a ton of great finds and truly unique items. Take your time perusing the sections that interest you most. You don’t have to see it all in one day, because there’s always next month.
The Rose Bowl Flea Market, 1001 Rose Bowl Drive Pasadena, CA 91103
Second Sunday of Every Month
Regular Admission: $8 from 9 am – 4:30 pm
Express Admission: $10 from 8 am – 9 am
Early Bird Admission: $15 from 7 am – 8 am
Meet Countlan’s Newest Contributor: Eva Kosmas
01 Who are you?
My name is Eva Kosmas and I originally started blogging as a way to share my recipes with friends and family, but it has blossomed into a food and photography blog where I’m always trying out new recipes and putting unique spins on rustic dishes.
02 Do you entertain at home?
I do love to entertain. The events I host at home are always food-related and our current home is fairly small, so we like to entertain outside in our big and beautiful backyard. My entertaining style is very laid back, it is more about the social aspect and the quality of the food than having every seat garnished with the perfect place setting.
03 Is there anything unique about Greek culture that influences how you entertain?
I think that my emphasis on the quality of the food and the social aspect of dining is a direct result of the Greek culture of entertaining. Greek culture does not at all emphasize having the correct place settings or using specific types of utensils e for specific dishes, Greek entertaining is a very informal experience that is about having fun with other people and enjoying delicious food, rather than following a specific etiquette.
04 What are your favourite dishes or recipes for summer?
My new favorite summer dessert recipe is a roasted plumcot semifreddo with toasted oat and shortbread crumbles, although I do love a good blackberry pavlova for a light and airy sweet. For savory, nothing beats a burger, and my favorite is a maple balsamic balsamic burger with sharp cheddar cheese.
05 If you could dine with three people, dead or alive, who would they be?
Ohhh excellent question! I think they would have to be Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Catherine the Great.
06 What can always be found on your table at home?
You can always find a cheese dome on my table, I think they’re just such lovely pieces and display all sorts of foods, both fresh and dried, quite beautifully.