A Flea Market for a Changing Richmond Hill

Hemmootee arranges jewelry at her booth. She’s been selling at markets since she was a child. (Photo by Tanwi Nandini Islam, via Open City)

Hemmootee arranges jewelry at her booth. She’s been selling at markets in Guyana since she was a child. (Photo by Tanwi Nandini Islam via Open City)

Housed in the former RKO Theater, the Richmond Hill Flea Market over the years has become a viable option for the neighborhood’s unemployed and underprivileged residents to supplement their income, reports Tanwi Nandini Islam in Open City.

“After I became unemployed, I started selling here,” recalled Joan Giacomontonio, a new vendor at the market. “I started connecting with Muslim customers who kept returning for my jewelry.” She pointed to a set of rings etched with Arabic script. “So, I wanted to connect with them, and started selling jewelry that they want to buy. It’s been really good for me.”

Standing between two vibrant commercial corridors, Liberty Avenue and 101st Avenue, the weekly Sunday market is visited by shoppers who reflect the changing demographics of the neighborhood. Once home to a large Jewish and Irish population, the area in recent years has seen the arrival of immigrant families from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The market’s location, early hours of operation and convenience of one-stop shopping appeal to the elderly clientele who use their visits as a Sunday pastime. It’s a pastime of sorts as well for some younger vendors.

“This is not my way of spending a Sunday,” admitted Andy Henry, who, at 16, might be one of the youngest vendors in the market. “It sort of kills my Saturday night. But it’s been good for my mother, Hemmootee.” He glanced at her, while she busily sold a piece of Indian costume jewelry to a customer. “My mom’s been doing this since she was a child in Guyana. She likes the conversations with people. She likes making her own business.”

To read what other merchants at the Richmond Hill Flea Market have to say, read Tanwi Nandini Islam’s article here.

One Comment

  1. Richmond hill has change in the last 15 years. it is now dirty and smelly. their are beautiful house in forth closer or 15 people in one house. this means the school are over crowded and more trash form each house.their are no more inspection from the fire department to keep the other house save from firer. their are no more cops on the street. In the pass Richmond hill was a great place to live not any more crime is up. the casino did nothing for the area or the school which is 4 blocks away.I only have good memories now. No is investing in Richmond they are using the house to get rich and to move on has every thing fall apart

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