Smorgasburg shuts down early, but promises another season

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Smorgasburg Upstate, an extension of the popular Brooklyn-based food and flea market, will wrap up its first season in the Hudson Valley this weekend, two weeks earlier than originally planned. After a delayed, but successful opening in early August, market co-founder Jonathan Butler said lessons learned this year will make Smorgasburg’s sophomore season even better.

Butler co-founded the food-based Smorgasburg with Eric Demby in May 2011 as an offshoot of Brooklyn Flea, a market the pair opened in a Fort Greene school playground in 2008. Though Smorgasburg Upstate retains the name of the food-friendly market, it was roughly split down the middle, appealing to foodies, flea market fans and everyone in between. And while he admitted to hurdles along the way, Butler said he was pleased with Smorgasburg Upstate’s two months along the Hudson River.

“We’ve been really happy with how the first season has gone,” Butler said this week. “I think we’ve built a great group of core vendors and established the Hutton Brickyards as a destination in this first year.”


There were times when it may have seemed like Smorgasburg Upstate might never come together. Initially planned to open on June 4, the market was delayed in part by engineering concerns about the Hutton Brickyards property. It finally opened on Saturday, Aug. 6 to big crowds, but those crowds began thinning out as Smorgasburg carried on. Initially conceived as running through the end of October, the market’s inaugural season will end this Saturday, October 15. But that doesn’t mean they’re not returning in 2017.

“It’s been a pretty simple formula thus far,” Butler said. “Assemble some of the best food and beer in the Hudson Valley at a historic venue with unparalleled proximity to the Hudson River. There’s lots to work on during the off-season though.”

Kingston isn’t Smorgasburg’s first foray out of Brooklyn, and they also opened their first Los Angeles market earlier in the summer. But there’s still room for optimism in Smorgasburg’s steady expansion plan: When it’s not winter, they’re still open in Williamsburg every Saturday. Last summer, Smorgasburg moved to Prospect Park in Brooklyn on Sundays, and during the winter they operate on the weekends alongside Brooklyn Flea at Industry City. But there are also smaller scale Smorgasburg locations in the city, including a daily market at South Street Seaport, and an event-based location at Central Park SummerStage. Berg’n, a beer hall and artisanal food market in Crown Heights, is also owned by Butler and Demby.

But their success elsewhere doesn’t automatically yield success everywhere, and Butler said that they will have to work harder in the Hudson Valley next year to keep people coming out.

“In the coming months, our focus will be on expanding the range of attractions on market days as well as broadening our marketing reach in the region,” he said, “If there was one mistake we made this year it was taking our foot off the marketing gas after the overwhelming response on opening day. It’s clear that we need to do more to remain in people’s radar as a place to come on a weekly basis, especially in an area where there are so many one-off special events that are established and get lots of airtime. On a related note, we were so busy getting the site ready and the core offering off the ground this year that we didn’t have the bandwidth to reach out and work with as many local groups and institutions as we would have liked to. Look for a lot more of that next year. We are also hoping that some entrepreneurial chefs will feel inspired to create some new concepts for the market.”

The Hudson Valley was well-represented among Smorgasburg Upstate’s vendors, with just a handful of popular Brooklyn favorites like Ramen Burger and Dan’s Parents’ House coming along for the ride. On opening weekend, the market boasted 40 food-oriented vendors and 30 lifestyle vendors, selling everything from antiques to vinyl records, shoes to vintage toys.

In August, Butler said Smorgasburg Upstate’s success wouldn’t be clear until the end of the season. In October, Butler didn’t say whether their first year was a success, but he did confirm they’d be back in 2017.

“We’re definitely doing it again next year and should be able to announce the schedule in the next couple of months,” he said.

The end of the 2016 season, this Saturday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Hutton Brickyards, 100 North St., will be marked by live music, a pig roast, and a wide range of flea vendors to browse.

There are 3 comments

  1. Dujana

    I think the problem was over-hype followed by “meh” feedback from people who actually made it there. I know
    numerous people who went that first weekend and reported back about the traffic problems, expensive food, crowds, lack of product and an overall underwhelming or frustrating experience. When these venues market themselves as the most exciting thing in the Hudson Valley they have to deliver. Apparently, Smorgasburg did not deliver and people went elsewhere in the weekends that followed- and told their friends to do the same. Maybe next year the kinks will be worked out and the good news will spread.

  2. Aphrodite

    I was told vendors paid $300 a day to be there. That seems pretty high for this region and probably scared a lot of potential vendors away. Especially after the numbers began to drop off.

    What people are prepared to pay for in Brooklyn is likely higher than what MHV folks would expect to – vendors were reporting a certain amount of sticker shock. I’d re-examine your formula.

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