Five Questions With: Maria Tocco

Maria Tocco is the owner and market manager of the Providence Flea LLC, a free, Sunday outdoor market in the summer downtown that moves to Hope High School on the East Side each winter and spring. The first pop-up winter flea will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on Jan. 13.

PBN: What is the Providence Flea Winter pop-up market?

TOCCO: I call them pop-ups because they are not on the regular weekly schedule as the outdoor markets. So, these are the second and fourth Sundays of the month. They are at Hope High School. It’s in their cafetorium, at the rear entrance of the building. Ground-floor access. Plenty of off-street parking. It’s accessible for people with disabilities. It’s a wide-open space where we can put vendors. We have food trucks and a coffee truck.

PBN: How many vendors do you typically have?

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TOCCO: Typically, we have about 50. For the holiday markets, we had over 150 vendors participating. But we can only fit about 50 to 60 vendors. The indoor market is only a little smaller [than the outdoor market].

PBN: Other than the location, what is different about the winter markets?

TOCCO: I promote the flea as an artisan/maker market. We don’t accept any multilevel marketing organization, or direct sales reps. We focus on local vendors, local makers, local pickers. It’s more of a handmade market. And there are vintage vendors. The flea has been attracting small, independent businesses who sell online, or who have recently graduated into a brick-and-mortar shop but are … looking to increase their exposure and boost their winter sales by coming to the flea and meeting their customers.

PBN: What is your average attendance?

TOCCO: For the holiday markets, we averaged around 1,100.  The regular winter-spring markets are probably a little lower than that. We’ll probably do close to 700 or 800. For something [such as] the Valentine market, the first February market, we’ll see over 1,000 people for that.

PBN: You have a featured nonprofit. Is that something you’ve regularly had?

TOCCO: Yes. We’ve had … R.I. Vet Corps, which is a West Bay Community Action project. This winter, we’ll have Tink Knit, a Brown [University] and [Rhode Island School of Design] student-led nonprofit, which helps low-income women by teaching them knitting, which they then … can sell.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at