Monday, October 7, 2013

The Search Goes On, Navigating LaChute!

I am probably about the last person on the planet to discover the LaChute Flea Market.

Of course I had heard talk of it among dealers and collectors for years. There were all kinds of stories about searching for antiques by flashlight among the vendors at some ungodly hour of the morning.   An anecdote about the LaChute market was standard fare in most conversations about antiques around here.

But for some unfathomable reason I had never visited the sprawling indoor / outdoor market located on the western edge of the Quebec town after which it is named.  Two years ago, I decided to finally visit the market. On the strength of that occasion, I also decided to take the plunge and try selling at the outdoor Tuesday antique market. (More about that experience in another post.)

Tuesday is the day when the pickers, dealers, mums, dads, aunts and uncles show up with their vans, trucks and cars packed with items to sell.  Management refers to the day as their "antique market" but visitors should be prepared for a much wider variety of merchandise!  The rear section of the market, about half the overall area,  is made up of long lanes which are navigable by car or truck. There is a row of pines and grassy sections between each lane.  Vendors pull on to the grass and unload their merchandise facing the one of the lanes.  Customers browse up and down the lanes.

Early morning set up at LaChute
In the summer, the LacChute market is a very popular destination, particularly during the "construction holidays" the last two weeks of July. The entire construction industry in the province shuts down for those two weeks. They came to this arrangement to avoid the inconvenience of everyone in the trade taking holidays at different times of the summer and causing delays in the completion of projects.

As you can imagine, the LaChute market hits a peak during those two weeks. One can hardly move, there's so many people walking up and down the lanes.  For dealers wanting to sell in the peak summer weeks, the definition of "first come first served" takes on a whole new meaning.  A substantial number of the dealers arrive on Monday and camp out overnight to ensure that they'll have one of the good spots. 

Dealers can also set up under cover in one of several open-sided long, narrow buildings. Picture a 300 foot long carport and you'll get the idea. In front of these structures, are two rows of garage type buildings which resemble those personal storage complexes you see so frequently these days.

There is also a main building which houses some 20 permanent dealer booths. The sprawling complex also includes a restaurant facility and a bar / lounge. The LacChute market features the sale of vegatables, farm produce, livestock and a host of other dealers are there selling a range of department story type merchandise: clothes, jackets, tee shirts, underwear, tools and cosmetics. Whoever coined the phrase "organized chaos" had likely just spent some time at the LaChute Market!  But make no mistake, the LaChute market runs like a well oiled machine. There's a place for everything and everything is in its place.  I was so impressed with LaChute, I included a chapter about it in my upcoming book, Folk Art in the Attic.

More dealers at the early morning set up.

This past Tuesday, Joan and I set off for LaChute travelling on the finally completed Highway 50 which we took from Gatineau, across the river from Ottawa, right through to LaChute.  Highway 50 now continues on to Montreal as well.  The trip to took an hour an ten minutes so it's fairly close to Ottawa.

At one time, several years ago, so I'm told, pickers from all over the province brought their loads to the market.  Country furniture figured prominently in the offerings. Now, since the pickers aren't finding the country antique items and accessories in volume, you don't find them at the market with the same frequency or with the same volume of merchandise.  But that's no different than any other market.  Despite the fact that you must churn through a huge volume of uninteresting items, LaChute still produces antiques and collectables of interest across a range of categories.

To find objects of desire at a flea market these days, you have to be prepared to search and search hard. And, you shouldn't limit your search to simply what's there on a particular day. Talk to the merchants. Ask questions.  Where are they from? Do they have antiques at home that aren't with them today? Where would they recommend you extend your search?  Finding antiques is as much about networking than anything else.

At LaChute, early, is a relative term. If you want to compete with the veteran dealers who like to be there when vendors are unloading, then plan on arriving at, say, 6:30 AM or earlier!  Joan and I arrived at about 10 AM which is late by LaChute standards but the best we could do on this particular morning. Besides, while the dealers may have already picked off some of the good merchandise, I like to think my eye is as good or better than theirs.  I'm looking for the items they've missed, found wanting or where the price was too high for them.  Considering that the vendors start to leave around 1 PM, then more than "half" their day is over by 10 AM.  The item that hasn't sold earlier may be much softer in price three or four hours later.  I've bought some very good things at LaChute well into the day and all the other dealers, for whatever reason, had passed on them.

Joan and I were strolling up and down the lanes of dealers. We had been there for about 45 minutes. At one point I turned to her and said.  "I'm starting to get that sinking feeling that I'm not going to find anything here today." Joan, always the optimist replied: "Oh, keep looking, you never know."  As usual, she was right!  Within the next few minutes, I was to find and acquire some of the nicest folk art pieces I'd seen in a long time.

And, that's a story for another post!

(For more photos and video of the LaChute Market visit


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