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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Home Planet

Travel: Vintage Shopping in Music City

A shopper shows off the vintage tool box she purchased at the Nashville Flea Market. (Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
A shopper shows off the vintage tool box she purchased at the Nashville Flea Market. (Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)


    The Nashville Flea Market is considered one of the top markets in the country, with good reason. Around since the mid-1960s and still going strong, the monthly market, with multiple buildings and acres of outdoor booths, is one of the biggest in the country, drawing dealers and vendors from across the region and as many as 500,000 shoppers each year.
    So when I was in Nashville on the 4th weekend in August and a friend volunteered to take me along to the market with her, I didn’t hesitate. We got there around 9a.m., just after the early bird rush and before the late morning crowd and found a parking spot in a lot near the back. (There is no admission but there is a $5 charge to park.) The streets surrounding the 117-acre complex were already jammed with parked cars and pedestrians.
    As soon as we walked through the gate two things were clear: I didn’t have nearly enough time to take in the 1,900 booths or enough room in my luggage to bring home any of the treasures I had already spotted. My Nashville friend was shopping for a piece of furniture so I settled for scouting for her, but it was hard not to stop and rummage for surprises.
    There were several booths filled with fine old rugs ( a weakness of mine) and I kicked myself for leaving the big suitcase at home. I was already packing a vintage alabaster lamp (another weakness) from Gilchrist Gilchrist, Taylor Swift’s favorite little shop in the trendy Berry Hill neighborhood, and there was no room left in my sensible carry on bag for even small a magic carpet.
    I walked on but hadn’t gone too far when I stopped to take in a vintage red and white travel trailer with  “Dead People’s Things” painted on the side and a chalkboard reading “Open for Bidness” and “You die, we buy!”  
    As I browsed a tabletop covered with antlers, two women walked over to a rustic table made from boards and an old bicycle frame. “Oh. My. God,” one of them said. “This is so ugly. I love it!”
    See? Mother was right: There’s no accounting for taste and there’s a match out there for everyone
    In one of the buildings I stepped right back into the 1990s when I spotted a booth filled with racks of vintage floral Laura Ashley dresses—the dresses were the suburban mother’s uniform when my children were small. I still have one or two packed away and it was fun to look at the puffy sleeves and gathered waists that were so popular.
    I couldn’t stop and sort through the boxes of old photos (yet another weakness) and cases of vintage Mexican silver jewelry (and yet one more) but by that time I was already making plans to go back to the Nashville Flea and take my own sweet time.
    The good new is it’s even easier to get to Nashville from Spokane now. In addition to the regular GEG to BNA Southwest Airlines flights, Alaska Airlines has just added the Music City to their roster. I am seriously thinking about gathering a group of friends and inviting them to come along. We’d have a blast in Nashville. We could shop the market all day and then hit the city for some good food and Music Row fun each night.
  You know, I have a bundle of Alaska Airlines miles. I could use them to get there and then take advantage of Southwest’s “two free checked bags” policy for my return flight.
    Just imagine what I could cram into two suitcases.


Nashville Flea Market

Where: The Tennessee State Fairgrounds
When: 7 a.m.- 4 p.m.  4th weekend of every month
Admission: Free, parking is $5
Details: Go to or call 615-862-5016

Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country.