Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Illinois Flea Markets: Kane County vs. Grayslake

This fall I did something I've been wanting to do for a long time, which is to do a side by side comparison of the two biggest flea markets in my area of Northeastern Illinois, the Kane County Flea Market (sometimes know as the St. Charles Flea Market) and the Grayslake Antique Market. The first one is year round (no market in January) on the first Sunday/preceding Saturday of every month. There is a $5 entrance fee, but parking is free. The Grayslake Antique Market is year round on the second Sunday and preceding Saturday, monthly, and charges a $7 entrance fee, with free parking. Because the dates are staggered, there is some overlap of the vendors, but not too much.
Typical outdoor stall at the Kane County Flea Market in St. Charles, Illinois

Antique marble sink for $300 at Kane County
Vintage wicker rocking chair at Kane County

Barn-type interior stalls at Kane County

Vintage frosted glass $1 at Kane County
Vintage copper Moscow Mule mug $5 at Kane County
Vintage Avon cologne decanter at Kane County $5

Vintage rubber toy at Grayslake $30

Indian head at Grayslake
Bin of faucet knobs at Grayslake

Quirky clock at Grayslake
Midcentury Lamp/table at Grayslake

Interior stalls at Grayslake

Antique wicker rocker for $35 at Kane County.

Cute metal table, spray painted pink. $12 at Grayslake

Vintage abalone shell in resin table; $8 Grayslake

Kane Country Flea Market in the fall.

Purse for a dollar! May not be vintage, but it's adorable!!!!
Comparisons: Both locations have both outdoor stalls and indoor stalls. The indoor ones at Grayslake tend to be slightly more pricey. You can find fantastic bargains at both flea markets. I bought several purses for $1 each at Grayslake, and I got some really cute stuff, all for less than $5 at Kane County (vintage glassware).
Stylish vintage vanity table $150 and vintage bamboo purse $5; Grayslake
The Kane County market is much bigger than Grayslake, has a more traditional flea market appearance (i.e. stalls spread out on dirt paths in a county fairgrounds, or under the open-air roofs of stalls labeled "Pigs" or "Cows.").
Kane County Funnel Cakes!
The Kane Country flea market also has slightly better food options. Both have rather depressing but typical Midwestern fast food counters offering hot dogs, burgers, etc. But at Kane County, at least in the summer and fall when people can mill about out of doors, they also have stands offering hot buttered ears of corn, funnel cakes (my and my mom's favorite!), and spiced nuts. The only other available treats at the Grayslake Antique Market were some delicious baked goods baked by a local organization of nuns for their charitable organization, and it was not clear whether they are there all the time, or just once in a while.
Amazing vintage velvet skirt. Too long for me so I made it into a throw blanket $1 at Grayslake!!!! And a shot of the interior of Grayslake.

Vintage carved plastic bangles in ivory from Grayslake; $8 each. Vintage satin pillows in Perfect Condition $5 each.
I would also say that the Kane County flea market is better for furniture, as far as the amount of pieces offered and the prices, but on the negative side, it also has more "junk" vendors selling lame stuff like tube socks, baseball caps, cheap sunglasses, knock-off purses and the like.
Vintage bookend $3; vintage daisy brooches $5 each. At Grayslake Antique Market
As far as handmade items or crafts, neither flea market has very much to offer in that way: only a handful of stalls selling those items. The great majority of vendors sold vintage/antique items and collectibles, and predominantly household items. There were relatively few vendors selling vintage clothing or fabrics. I think places in Chicago would be better sources for vintage clothing lovers.

And one final note about comparisons: having been to the Brooklyn Flea Market in September, it really struck me how stereotypically Midwestern everyone looked at the two markets. The Brooklyn Flea is not only fun to shop and eat, but a place to "see and be seen" where vendors and shoppers alike are stylishly and funkily dressed, and there are so many attractive hipster type people there. The attendees at these two Illinois markets were mostly in "mom" or "dad" jeans, sweatshirts, or sports team shirts. Everyone looked very plain and unremarkable. As a Midwesterner, it was a little embarrassing.
Typical attire for a Midwestern flea market is pretty drab and utilitarian.
 So - the verdict? Both flea markets are worth the trip. Prices are generally good, and everyone is down with negotiation and bargaining. You might not find exactly what you were looking for, but you will probably find plenty to love - and spend money on!