Thieves Flea Market seeks new home after Big Surf closes
Located in downtown Tempe in the Big Surf parking lot, Thieves Flea Market has become a one-stop-shop for everything from eclectic home decor to niche vintage clothing. In the last seven years he has been in Tempe, he has grown in popularity among the people of the Eastern Valley. But before leaving the Big Surf car park, it hosted its last flea market of the season on April 2.
“Some of the other vintage markets have their very specific niche with people coming to their market. We just sort of opened it up to everyone,” said Mickey Meulenbeek, founder of Thieves Flea Market.
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Thieves returned from their COVID break in October and have since had a busy selling season.
“I think what was most interesting was how much people missed it. How busy we were when COVID finally let go a bit, that was really interesting to me and I really got felt good that we missed each other so much,” Meulenbeek said.
Before Thieves cultivated the community it has today, it was a three-day market in Cave Creek, Arizona called “The Big Heap.” Meulenbeek recalled how it all started.
“We were desperately trying to get people to come to this town and we decided to start a flea market, me and two of my friends. We saw all this vintage stuff start happening in the world and people decorating with junk food,” Meulenbeek said.
Meulenbeek had about five successful years with The Big Heap, but wanted to expand the market to more people in the valley.
“It was popular; everyone in town would come every month and people from the surrounding area, but we couldn’t bring people from the eastern valley,” Meulenbeek said.
And now, nearly a decade after moving the market to Tempe, Thieves has become one of the most popular markets in the area.
“We love the tattoo crowd. We love the car guys. We love LGBTQ, we take everyone. And the dogs,” Meulenbeek said.
Local vintage clothing sellers have used the market as a way to grow their brands.
“My stall usually attracts 16-30 year olds with the occasional sassy grandma,” said Avery Greey, who sells 2000s (“Y2K”) clothing at Thieves throughout the 2021-2022 season.
Kendal Baker, owner of Earth Wind and Vintage, a brand of upcycled clothing and vintage pieces, is another frequent Thieves supplier.
“I think Earth Wind and Vintage have grown so much because of that market,” Baker said. I now have regulars stopping in every month and it warms my heart to this day. The Thieves brought me so many memories: having coffee at one of the early morning food trucks with my mom, meeting and sharing laughs with each of my customers, exchanging numbers with some of the nearby vendors so we could keep in touch and continue to support each other. It is an unforgettable flea market.
While this marks the end of the Thieves era in Big Surf, it does not mark the end of the Thieves, as he plans to move to an area soon that is still in the center of the East Valley.
“I can’t even tell you how supportive our community has been, and how much we appreciate that and how grateful we are to everyone. It’s just amazing,” said Meulenbeek.