Trader Walt’s “The Flea at the Downs” Santa Fe’s summer outdoor traditional flea market, has spirit and style harkening back to the internationally famous Trader Jack’s. Until Jack Daniels left his Flea north of town in in 2001, it was a “must do” for locals and visitors alike. Trader Walt’s Market, south of Santa Fe on the old thoroughbred race track, is as close to Jack’s market as we can make it a decade later.

It’s the sort of place where 50 to 100 day traders arrive weekend mornings at 6:30, with pickups and station wagons jammed with tools, exotic rocks, cookware, rugs, toys, classic LP’s, silver rodeo buckles, boots, beads and bangles, slightly chipped Waterford crystal, and the occasional priceless yard sale treasure only you will recognize.

It’s the sort of place where, when you walk among the 70 individual tents in the core market or the 100 tail-gate spaces, you might run into fashion giant Tom Ford; Native American painter Tony Abeyta; the art director for Johnnie Depp’s The Lone Ranger, or the set designer for A&E’s new hit western series Longmire. And, if you have a keen eye for beauty, you might even find yourself right beside Susan Austin, the Madam of the Mustang Ranch, who makes special trips from Reno, bargain hunting for furnishings and finery.

“The Flea” is also the sort of place where, conversing with a vendor or tailgater, you discover you’re chatting with author, decorator and style editor Mary Emmerling; 7th Avenue dress designer Ann Lawrence; Mountain Man-Historian Jeff Hengesbaugh; former art director for CBS Records and now a national licensing designer, Hillary Vermont; saddle maker Clint Mortenson; Canyon Road Gallerista Marc Navarro, or world class “scouts” in the tradition of Larry McMurty’s “Cadillac Jack,” like Bill Hawn, Michael Eros, Lloyd Nelson, Lynn Canterbury or Claire and John Martinez.
“The Flea” is not just in the spirit, style and society of the old market… many of Trader Jack’s vendors have joined the Downs, or come out of retirement since we opened.

Among Jack’s vendors recently joining Trader Walt are jewelry designer Roberta Marks and her famous sign “I DO GAUDY BEST, IF YOU CAN’T SEE IT FROM THE  HIGHWAY WHY WEAR IT?;” Luke Hornbek’s Redshell Jewelry and Jack Lanstra’s and Janice Lynn Phelps’ J. Arrow Designs.

Other Trader Jack’s veterans include purveyor of all manner of gadgets, Bert Waldo; silver specialist Kay Cauley, woodworker Norma Plemons, Spanish Colonial traders Richard and Veronica Coffin, haute couture recycler, Cynthia Williams, Steve Kalminson’s Maya Jones Imports, and Per Nilson, with what is likely the largest and most important collection of monumental petrified wood for sale in the world.

There’s a new generation of Stromberg’s, Sonia Gaye and Jim, crafting custom porch rockers, while Pam Dietrich sews high fashion leather attire in her booth and jewelry designers Jules Barth and Tom Dewitt, both featured by Ralph Lauren, offer work with a western flair. Jeweler Caroline Jenney shares a gallery tent with painter Raya this year and photographer Dana Waldon combines antique cowgirl couture with her fast rising line of purses, The Scout Collection.

The Flea is remains home to Ignacio and Caroline Villarreal’s famous SoHo gallery, Craft Caravan, as well as the antiques of the Paaps and the crystals and fountains of Leith Johnson and John Martinez. T.R. Lawrence is now importing Moroccan Olive Oil, while Bruce and Amanda Gray feature antique tools and other fascinating stuff. Contemporary Native American Artist Rita Iringan, takes a “flea” break from her arts career, including Santa Fe Indian Market, to sell “great stuff” just across the aisle from masters of Flea antiques, Ronnie and Richard Ashcroft and around the corner from the Asian wonders of Jon Batchick. As you can see, Trader Walt’s is not just any Flea.