Lynchburg’s Punk Rock Flea Market Creates a Beautiful Community
Walking into Three Roads Brewing on a Sunday at 3 p.m. is like walking into a family reunion. Everyone is catching up, the beer is flowing, music is playing. You hear, “Market day, baby!” muffled in the background amidst the chatter and clinking of glasses, and you realize that this isn’t a family reunion at all (or is it?). It’s an art market.
Kaleb Gay is the man behind the curtain of this joyous, and sometimes chaotic, scene.
“You want people to stop and wonder what is happening, and then realize that it’s good,” Gay said, almost with a renegade glimmer in his eye.
And stop and wonder is what people do. The LoveLYH Flea Market is Lynchburg’s very own punk rock flea market. From Seattle to Philadelphia punk rock flea markets have been popping up in cities across the country for years, so it was only a matter of time before one came to Lynchburg as well.
While Gay is the current maestro of the weekly market—home to artists, makers, crafters, musicians, and folks hoping to make some cash from their unwanted clothes and housewares in true flea market fashion—Katy Wetzel is the one who brought the concept of a punk rock flea market to Lynchburg.
“I’m originally from just outside of Philadelphia, and I came to Lynchburg to attend Randolph [College]. I had the opportunity to go to a punk rock flea market in Philly, which is a twice-annual thing,” Wetzel explained. “There are punk rock flea markets all over the country and it’s an opportunity for people to just sell stuff if they’re cleaning out their garage, but it’s also a space for makers and artists.”
After Wetzel moved to Lynchburg and got connected with her own network of artists and makers, she knew that Lynchburg had the type of creative community to support a flea market of its own. Dave Ellis, owner of Dish in downtown Lynchburg, offered up the patio and parking lot of Rendezvous, his former restaurant on Main Street across from Dish, as a free spot to host the market.
“Dave is someone who is supportive of all sorts of different cultural happenings in Lynchburg,” Wetzel said. “He’s always all about supporting folks. I wouldn’t have initiated the flea market if I didn’t have the space, and Dave was able to provide that.”
With the venue nailed down, Wetzel knew she needed a partner to help organize and promote the flea market.
“Kaleb was the first person who came to my mind. He’s a maker at heart and an artist,” Wetzel said. “I couldn’t imagine a better person to talk to about starting something like this.”
So, in 2019, the first Lynchburg punk rock flea market was born. Vendors set up tables and tents in an empty parking lot, selling handmade zines, artwork, and clothes. Fast forward three years, and the flea market has grown by leaps and bounds.
Now the flea market has found its home at Three Roads Brewing, where Gay is also a bartender. Having a larger indoor/outdoor space has allowed the flea market to open itself up even further to makers, artists, and musicians.
“It was another opportunity from another wonderful friend,” Gay explained, speaking of former Three Roads manager Molly Fusco, who offered up the Three Roads space in August of 2020.
It’s that sort of mentality—folks stepping up and helping out—that truly encapsulates what makes the LoveLYH Flea Market so special. Wetzel’s and Gay’s vision for the market has always been to keep it as accessible as possible, which is why there are zero fees or costs to have a table or booth space on Sundays. Artists don’t need to sign up or commit to coming long term, they simply need to have something that they want to sell and show up.
“I want people to understand that it’s a free place to set up. You don’t have to be an established arts and crafts person. I’ll probably take a Sunday soon and sell my excess garden tomatoes,” Wetzel said of the free-flowing structure of the market. “It’s a space for all, and it’s so cool that there is no charge for a table or anyone cutting into people’s sales for anything.”
“I see people coming here sometimes who are out of work right now, or struggling financially, and they have an opportunity to sell their stuff and make some income,” Gay furthered. “There’s something to someone showing up and seeing that, ‘You know what, someone just liked my stuff enough to buy it.’ and then they keep doing it and coming back each week.”
That feeling of pride—and of bravery to show up and put yourself out there in the first place—is palpable every Sunday at the market. Rain or shine, folks are able to display their work and make life-changing connections with others.
“The market has been a miracle for me,” said Kat Newcomb, who makes and sells jewelry made with precious and semiprecious stones. “I moved to Lynchburg right before everything shut down [for COVID], so I didn’t know anybody and I hadn’t been anywhere. Kaleb kept telling me that he had started this market, and that I needed to come for a visit, so I showed up, and it quickly became something that I looked forward to every week… . This was my haven every Sunday. I started to meet people. I’ve met so many people who are now my support system. I credit Kaleb and I credit the market for that.”
Newcomb also brings her 8-year-old son with her to the market on Sundays, which has done wonders for his confidence as well.
“He has started doing the singer/songwriter showcase on Sundays,” she said. “Everyone has been so encouraging of him. The round of applause that he received the first time he performed just encouraged him to keep going. He’s getting into music because he has gotten so much encouragement from folks at the market. He’s been so brave, and it’s been a journey for him as well.”
When you experience the LoveLYH Flea Market, you get a sense that maybe it’s not about the art at all—it’s about the connections that you can make. The flea market is an opportunity to meet folks from all walks of life, and share a conversation and a beer with them. The art just happens to be the icebreaker to those conversations.
“We’re a social gathering exploring the limits of community,” Gay said. “It’s a bit more corybantic than your standard or structured market. It leaves a nice amount of wiggle room for expression—and that’s what we all could use a bit more of.”
Folks looking to sell their wares, or simply shop at the LoveLYH Flea Market, can visit Three Roads Brewing on Court Street every Sunday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Follow @lyhpunkrockfleamarket on Instagram for updates.