On a bright and early March morning, the warehouse within the Fairgrounds Nashville feels full to the brim with customers anxious to get their hands on one-of-a-kind, shabby-chic, vintage-inspired merchandise.
Crowds of people swarm the endless aisles of booths. People with toddlers in strollers. People with mini shopping carts. Even people with teacup-sized pooches navigate their way through the jam-packed locale.
Nearly 100 vendors line the walls. Artwork. Clothes. Furniture. You name it. The eclectic mish-mash of vintage treasures and pops of pastel colors morph together so effortlessly, it’s difficult to distinguish where one booth ends and the next booth begins.
Welcome to Vintage Market Days: Among the Wildflowers, Nashville’s annual spring market event hosted at the Fairgrounds Nashville. At the market, customers and vendors from all across the country come to showcase vintage-inspired items crafted by indie designers who provide a shopping experience unique to Nashville.
In total, the Vintage Market Days franchise spans nearly 70 event locations across the nation. Since 2017, Cole Bowen and his wife, Brittney, work behind the scenes as the franchise owners and promoters of Vintage Market Days.
“In Nashville, at least two Vintage Market Days events are held each year,” said Cole Bowen. “We have our spring market, which usually occurs in March, and our holiday market, which is toward the end of November and beginning of December.”
As promoters, Cole and Brittney Bowen turn to primarily toward social media, as well as television and radio, to reach their audience. “This way, customers come from everywhere,” said Cole Bowen. “Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, New York and Nashville being a tourist destination city helps bring in a crowd. For people already in Nashville, the fairgrounds location is central for the city with its longstanding history of events.”
Cole Bowen says on average, Vintage Market Days of Nashville draws in about 10,000-20,000 people over the course of the weekend. They come in pickup trucks, vans, pulling trailers and U-Hauls behind them to bring their new belongings back home.
In preparation for the market, Cole Bowen, Brittney Bowen, vendors and staff of approximately 100 individuals begin setting up the event on Wednesday. They work endlessly until the venue looks ready for opening Friday morning.
The market takes up the entirety of the general purpose event facility, complete with a small outside eating area. Not an inch of space gone to waste. Trucks and trailers of all shapes and sizes fill the backlot for the vendors to load and unload their elaborate arrangements and merchandise.
At this specific event, vendors come from over 20 different states. “This weekend, we’ve got vendors coming from Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and all over trying to come south and get away from the cold and winter,” said Cole Bowen. “The vendors are all across the board. Old, young, full-time workers, people who do this for fun on the side and some who do this as their full-time job and this is how they make their living.”
“We like to have a good conglomeration of things,” said Cole Bowen. “We pick vendors for different age brackets, like kids clothes, jewelry, the mom crowd and older women who are in their 60s and up. We just try to pick and choose vendors who do different types of things so that it’s not all the same.”
Sherrie Lane, a Harrisburg, Illinois native, drove to Nashville to sell aprons and other homemade embroidery and designs from her brand Sherrie Lynn Aprons. Lane works independently on her brand, purchasing patterns and fabrics to create aprons, pillows, American Girl doll clothing and custom embroidered items.
About 10 times per year, Lane packs up her merchandise and travels to Vintage Market Days events around the country.
“I love traveling to Vintage Market Days,” said Lane. “This Nashville one is exceptionally good. These are good people who work hard and are so very nice. I’ve had a wonderful weekend here.”
Another vendor, Farmhouse Frocks, hails from Millersburg, Ohio. The owner, Lena Schlabach, established the brand in 2014 with her two daughters, Felicia and Sydni. The business sells bohemian, vintage-inspired shabby-chic clothing and accessories all constructed by Amish women.
At the event, the trio sell bags, dresses, tops and accessories under a cream-colored shabby-chic canopy. Fur rugs which compliment the fur merchandise line the floor of the booth. In the back, the women stand behind a tiny, dolled-up trailer used as a Farmhouse Frocks dressing room.
Throughout the year, Schlabach and her daughters travel to different events throughout the country to promote their brand.
“We want women everywhere to feel empowered and have faith rather than fear,” said Schlabach. “That’s why we like coming to events like this, because we get to reach out to a whole new demographic of women with our brand.”
Similar to the vendors, Vintage Market Days also draws in customers from different parts of the United States. Nashville natives and outsiders alike travel to Vintage Market Days in hopes of finding unique vintage-inspired pieces for their homes.
Alyssa Grubbs, a Belmont graduate, lives only 10 minutes away from the event. Grubbs came to Vintage Market Days to find mid-century inspired items for her home.
“Our house is like a 1950s ranch, so we really like stuff from the ‘50s and ‘60s,” said Grubbs. “It’s amazing how people salvage stuff and resell it.”
Another customer, Debbie Cox, from Hillsboro, Illinois, shops at Vintage Market Days around the country for vintage items and finds inspiration for her own small business, A Farm Girls Vintage.
“I’ve been going to Vintage Market Days events for five years, but this is my first visit to one in Nashville,” said Cox. “My experience was great. I love the florals, the greenery, my friends and I just love it all.”
In short, both Grubbs and Cox say they will return to the Fairgrounds Nashville for future Vintage Market Days of Nashville events.
Next November, Vintage Market Days of Nashville’s next event will be held at the Fairgrounds Nashville from Nov. 30 through Dec. 2.
“We love our spring markets, but we also can’t wait for our upcoming holiday market,” said Bowen. “These events are great for anyone who feels creative and artistic. We can’t wait to see what happens.”