One Place Where Brooklyn Is Not Cool

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AP / The Gainesville Sun, Erica Brough

Around the world, “Brooklyn” has become a global hipster brand, seen on craft brews, clothing, restaurants, and more. But in Philadelphia, the presence of “Brooklyn” in the name of a local flea market just comes across as obnoxious.

Earlier this year, the New York Times T magazine noted how cities around the world have been “Brooklynizing,” with upcoming hipster neighborhoods popping up in places such as Nashville, Paris, and Berlin. The word “Brooklyn” appears in the name of a diner in Dubai and a restaurant in Malaysia. As far back as 2010, the New York Post counted more than 75 local companies or products with “Brooklyn” in their names. Notably, there’s the Brooklyn Brewery, whose craft beers are sold in 20 countries and are of particular fascination to people from Sweden, of all places. Bloomberg News recently reported that Swedes are regular visitors to the brewery’s weekend tours, and that the company will open its first overseas plant in Stockholm in early 2014.

The word “Brooklyn” has come to be shorthand for something that’s cool, urban, authentic, and local, often laced with some underdog, anti-corporate flavor. The problem for companies hawking “Brooklyn” is that some of these attributes just don’t apply as “Brooklyn” spreads, and as businesses with “Brooklyn” in the name hit the big time.

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One place that has roundly rejected “Brooklyn” is also a city that’s been described as rapidly undergoing Brooklynization over the years: Philadelphia.

In June, the Brooklyn Flea, which operates flea markets in several Brooklyn locations every weekend, launched the Brooklyn Flea Philly in the city’s Northern Liberties neighborhood, an area known for attracting “skinny jeans-wearing, PBR-swilling, facial hair-and-tattoo-loving segment of the population,” as one local TV station put it. Despite the hipster crowds, the Brooklyn Flea Philly was an utter failure, and organizers pulled the plug on the flea market recently.

Some blamed high rents for vendors, and a hard-to-find location as reasons why the flea market wasn’t embraced by shoppers. Many others simply point to the presence of the word “Brooklyn”—or any reference to the Big Apple—as the kiss of death for a business aspiring to be “local” or “authentic” while operating in Philadelphia.

“I refuse to support anything in Philadelphia that has some New York thing in their name,” a typical online commenter wrote, according to Philadelphia magazine.

Proud Philadelphians essentially “sneered the Brooklyn Flea Market out of existence,” the Philadelphia Inquirer explained. Throughout the summer, vendors heard from countless shoppers who were turned off, and perhaps even insulted, by the name, Brooklyn Flea Philly manager Mark Vevle told the Inquirer. “The feedback they would get from some of their staunch, loyal people was, ‘I won’t set foot down there because it has Brooklyn in its name.'”

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Last week, Vevle announced that a new indoor market will open on a series of Saturdays starting November 16, with a historic center city location in the former Strawbridge & Clothier department store. Though a press release states the new market will be “modeled after the Brooklyn Flea,” a far more local name was chosen: Franklin Flea.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Flea model has been faring better outside the City of Brotherly Love. Racked reported that a version of the Brooklyn Flea in Washington, D.C., was popular enough to warrant a six-week extension, lasting through the end of November. One factor helping the cause in that location is that “Brooklyn” isn’t in the name of the market; it’s called the District Flea.