Melrose Trading Post opens in the valley

The Melrose Trading Post opened its second location on Saturday, March 15 at Taft Charter High School in Woodland Hills with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new weekly market which opens at 9 a.m. and will raise funds for the school.

The ceremony featured L.A. City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield who cut the ribbon, and LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer who spoke to the crowd and the estimated 150 vendors who showed up for opening day.

“To LAUSD folks here and to the LAUSD folks that are watching somewhere, this is great proof that when we choose to work together great things can happen,” Zimmer said. “This trading post, this marketplace, I really believe that this is going to continue for generations just like we have at Fairfax.”

The Melrose Trading Post (MTP) has been operating a market for the public at Fairfax High School for the past 16 years. MTP was co-founded by Pierson Blaetz and Whitney Weston who originally approached the school for arts education classes but saw a greater need.

“It was a partnership with two parents that were part of the parent organization at the time. Fairfax had 3,700 students and three involved parents,” Blaetz said. “They didn’t need arts education classes at that time, they needed money. They were really struggling. So we proposed this idea of a trading post in their parking lot.”

The Fairfax location operates Sundays. An admission ticket is $3 with 100% of the entrance fees going to the school along with a portion of the vendor fees. The Taft market will use the similar structure with an admission price of $2.

“It was very humble in its beginnings, and now the last four Sundays we’ve been averaging close to 5,000 people attending and we have 240 vendors,” Blaetz said. “At Fairfax High School over the 16 years we’ve raised over $5,000,000 for the school. Its primary goal is as a fundraiser for the school, but certainly an important goal is community building.”

Many of the vendors present for the opening were regulars from the Fairfax market that were willing to travel to the San Fernando Valley. Mieka May, a  22 year old vendor that runs Le Boustique, a hand made jewelry and clothing boutique inside a 1961 Ford bus, is always ready to travel.

“When I was 15 years old, before I could legally work, my mom bought a booth at the market and I sold little handmade treasures that I would make. I raised money and got this bus, renovated it and turned it into a boutique,” May said. “Now I take it on the road and I’m my own boss. I’ve worked with the Melrose Trading Post for many years and we’re really excited about the new Taft market.”

Natalie Iturbe has been the vendor manager for the Fairfax Trading Post for the past three years and was on the consulting team that was charged with finding a new location.

“We were looking for a place specifically in the valley for Saturdays and we found the people at Taft were so excited,” Iturbe said. “The booster club looked like they really had their business together, and they were actually supporting the school, which is very important to us. We looked at some other schools but Taft really was the best fit.”

In regards to other markets in the area such as the Topanga Vintage Market Iturbe feels there is no conflict and the more going on in the valley the better.

“I think its better for both of us that we both exist out here. The fact that we’re on different days makes it so it’s not really a competition,” Iturbe said. “It’s more like we’re making this area an establishment for this kind of event. I think it’s exciting that more things like this will be happening in the valley.”

 For vendor Helene Layne, a documentary filmmaker who moved to the valley a year ago from Miami, being a part of the trading post was almost destined to occur.

“I was looking up the Melrose Trading Post because I had gone there and I was thinking about being a part of it but I live in the valley and thought I should do something here in my own home,” Layne said. “Then I saw this location was opening and I thought this was meant to be. I love the idea of supporting the high school.”

Layne buys small pottery from other markets and thrift stores and plants cacti she gets from a wholesaler. Being conscious of the drought she uses her plants to make others aware of the value of repurposing goods and to be environmentally conscious.

“I met the writer of ‘The Secret’ and he said to do something that makes you happy,” Layne said. “I love working with nature and I love the idea of reusing the vases and the pottery, working with the environment and it’s a way to talk to people and engage them.”

The name Melrose Trading Post comes from the location of Fairfax High School, which is on the corners of Melrose and Fairfax, but the founders wanted to add something that embodied the spirit of what they wanted to accomplish with the market.

“Whitney and I at the time didn’t like the name ‘flea market’ so we we’re looking for an alternative name. I like the feel of ‘trading post’ because it felt like it was more than just money being exchanged, that there was a trade of good will,” Blaetz said. “And I just like those images of a western trading post that was a place where people gathered to find out what was going on in the community.”

The Melrose Trading Post will feature vendors, food, and live music at the Taft High School parking lot on the corners of Winnetka and Venture from 9a.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday. Pets are allowed on a leash for responsible owners. For more information visit melrosetradingpost.org.