This converted factory is home to a wealth of vintage and antique goods.
“Sundays are show time,” says John Hiden, the owner of Mongers Market, a treasure trove for vintage and antique shopping in Bridgeport, CT. Hiden sounds determined and full of enthusiasm this morning, like the ringmaster of a circus — and Monger’s Market is not unlike a circus brimming with curious objects and characters.
Hiden’s love for old things began in elementary school. On the first Thursday of every month, garbage day, he would rush home from school, hop on his bicycle with a shopping cart in tow, and fill it with his neighbors’ discarded items. Items like bikes, sleds, furniture, tools, wooden boxes, metal milk crates, buckets, and interesting trinkets. “I wouldn’t sell the items found. Instead the items were used as the raw materials for creations that my imagination would conjure up,” Hiden tells me, creations like go-carts, forts, and more. He never imagined his childhood passion would become a viable career.Hiden’s been in the salvaged goods business for over 20 years. Before opening Mongers Market, he owned and managed Hiden Galleries, an association of 250 antiques, art, and design dealers in Stamford, CT. Sustainability is at the heart of why Hiden and the vendors renting retail space at 1155 Railroad Avenue do what they do. “You know, the reality is that we’re creating way too much waste. We’re burning up the planet and burning out in general. So most of the people here get that,” says Hiden, “I mean, a lot of this stuff, if people can’t give it to their children, where does it go?” Mongers Market is about giving new life to things — from the building’s conversion from a rundown factory to the items sold inside.
The converted factory was built in 1946 by the Pratt-Read Corporation to produce tools. By the time Hiden purchased the property in 2012, the factory had been mostly emptied out and fallen into disrepair. He spent the next six years restoring the building himself with the help of a few friends. He credits his wife with the name Monger, which is an old word for a seller, such as a fishmonger. When Mongers Market opened in 2018, renters included just a handful of vendors. Now, nearly five years later, this 75,000 sq. ft. building is home to about 100 unique merchants at a time. Unoccupied space is filled with Hiden’s merchandise, including two private floors of his personal collection of industrial salvaged goods, which Hiden and I spend an hour exploring before the market opens.
The floors appear to stretch out indefinitely. When you think you’ve seen the last of it, there is more. Hiden shows me cabinets from Yale Peabody Museum used to store fossilized remains; countless buckets of bobbins from yarn factories around the country; perfume vats; and even speakers left behind in this factory. These distinct items typically attract set designers and restauranteurs.
Much like the ringmaster conscripting the best talent for his tent, Hiden works hard to curate the best group of mongers. “It comes down to finding mongers with the right stuff,” says Mary Karl, the market manager, “… ready to participate fully in the Sunday experience.” Mongers Market is only open to the public on Sundays from 10 a.m.– 4 p.m., requiring mongers to give up a substantial part of their weekend.
One of the first mongers was Janis Melone. For Melone, shopping and selling her home decor and vintage clothing is all about finding quality, well-made items that won’t go out of style. Although she says she could turn a bigger profit online, Melone loves getting to know her customers. “If you’re sick of shopping and feeling like a droid, it’s nice coming to a place like this,” she explains.
Ed and Tina Skiffington of BlackRock Pickers were new to the antiquing business when they moved in three years ago. Ed’s first impression of the market was that it looked like a scene straight out of Indiana Jones. Immediately, the couple knew they wanted to be a part of it, and they picked out their booth on the spot. Since then, their strategy has been to buy and sell what they like, and it works. They deal in décor like vintage cameras, phones, fans, and radios. They’ve done business with set designers in theater and TV — you’ll see some of their merchandise in the last season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
There are also a variety of craftsmen at Mongers Market. J.C. Saben uses reclaimed wood to build clocks, small furniture, and charcuterie boards. Richard Rose designs light fixtures from all sorts of peculiar objects like pickle jars, Ford carburetors, and airplane propellers. Rahimah Lateef sells refurbished furniture upholstered in West African mud cloths. There’s so much, you can literally get lost. I overhear more than one shopper turn to their friend and question which direction they came from.
Mongers Market doesn’t invest much in marketing and many visitors discover the bazaar simply by catching a glimpse of it towering over Interstate-95 while they sit in traffic. And you never know who you may run into. I bump into actor Jake Lacey aka Shane from Season 1 of The White Lotus. Lacey’s wife discovered the marketplace while searching for activities their young family might enjoy now that they’ve swapped Manhattan for a Connecticut suburb. Lacey loves vintage things and says of his first visit to Mongers, “It’s incredible. We had no idea what we were walking into.”
Sure, buying second-hand is more affordable, it’s trendy, and it’s good for the environment — making it attractive to set designers, actors, and business owners. But the real allure of Mongers Market is the atmosphere Hiden has created. It’s an atmosphere of possibility and adventure that keeps customers, collectors, and mongers coming back and shopping sustainably.
Mongers Market, located at 1155 Railroad Ave in Bridgeport, CT, is open Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Appreciate the article, we are Ed and Tina Skiffington of BlackRock Pickers. Not sure if you can correct spelling mistakes but would like to ask for correction
We’re so sorry. Correction made.