By Abigail Cloutier
I sat down with Derrick McDowell, founder of Youngstown Flea, a community-based consignment market. McDowell recently purchased a new facility for the market and plans to use it for community involvement and more. He plans for the downtown Youngstown space to be ready for the Flea to use by next season. For more interview features, check out JambarTV every Thursday at noon.
What inspired you to purchase this new space?
The many vendors and community residents that we serve, that’s really the inspiration behind it. We saw the pandemic and we thought about how helpless we felt as a business and as a platform to be able to support those that we’d been supporting for five years. So we felt this building could help us become a little more “pandemic-proof” if you will.
What are your plans for the space, what are you most excited about?
I’m most excited about the community’s excitement. The community of makers that we’ve shared, the building space … the community residents, we just had a quick open house tour Sunday [Oct. 25]. So many people were excited to be in a space that’s been locked up and shut up [for] decades. I’m just excited about the excitement around it … plans [include] mixed-use community space. Certainly we want to relocate Youngstown Flea from the parking lot space we’ve been using next door to Covelli [Centre]. This will be the new home of the Youngstown Flea at 365 East Boardman St. That’s enough to be excited about there, that’s part of “Phase 1.”
We want to get into a ton of things. We’ve talked about Flea School [and] having coworking spaces where our vendors and makers can come and do what we call show and tells. [Vendors] show you and tell you how they make their product and educate you about the business that they’re in. We want to allow the community to suggest to us feedback on how to use the space, whether it be wedding receptions or different activities that don’t particularly get a lot of attention because of some of the limited spaces in the downtown. Not everybody can afford a large convention center, not everybody belongs in specific theaters or performance hall spaces downtown, so this industrial building gives us a lot of opportunity to open it up to the community for different types of activities.
How do you think those activities and the community space will benefit Youngstown as a whole?
We know that there’s this sentiment that some of the community carries. There goes another thing for downtown. We want people to know that though this is located in the downtown area. This is for the entire community. We want the dreamers, we want the small business owners on the South Side, we want the entrepreneur on the East Side, we want the maker on the North Side, the West Side to understand that, yes, this is a centrally located space, but we want to draw in, not just from the Youngstown area, we want the surrounding areas. The Flea already draws vendors and partners from Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Pittsburgh. We hope that people recognize, though, this is in downtown, it’s for all of Youngstown.