On the first weekend of every month, for more than five years, Sean and Celesta Carter welcomed thousands of people on the hunt for special finds at Brocante Vintage Market in the Warehouse Arts district of downtown St. Petersburg.
Boasting more than 15,000-square-feet of vintage items ranging from ABBA records to zebrawood dressers and literally everything in-between, constantly restocked over the weekend and completely refreshed the next month, Brocante, located in a former piano factory, gained a kind of cult following with people waiting in line at 6 a.m. for their 9 a.m. opening or planning vacations around market weekend.
“That was one of the signs we really had something. We always wanted to connect with the community who loved this stuff as much as we did,” Celesta said. “The kind of response we got blew us away and we never could have imagined Market would become what it did.”
The Carters opened Brocante in August 2014; the idea for the business was inspired from their travels and visits to vintage or second-hand scenes in other places around the country.
“The concept was really pieced together over several years and we tweaked it along the way,” Sean explained. “People would always ask how we could be open for only two days a month and pay our bills. It was a leap of faith, but we were definitely in the right spot for it all to work.”
Celesta grew up going to farmer’s auctions in Kansas and had always loved unique furnishings, but it wasn’t until the Carters were decorating their first house that Sean’s love for vintage was kindled by, of all things, a Mason jar at a yard sale.
“He was just standing there doing research on his phone about this random jar and getting really interested in its history,” Celesta recalls. “And now he’s quite the aficionado.”
“They represent a huge turning point in American history because you no longer had to worry about drying food to preserve it over Winter,” Sean said. “One wrong move and this glass jar could break but it had already made it through 120 years, and it all just went from there.”
Comprised of about 50 vendors—"Brocanteurs," rather—Market was always a big, exciting adventure with so many personalities found in both the goods and the people who worked there, all present to ensure the customer had a great time.
“I think the biggest thing we could ever provide was an unrivaled experience. Our approach was always experience first, goods second,” Celesta said. Sean added, “Our number one thing was that we all were excited [the customer’s] here and that it was a genuine feeling, too.”
Over the years, Brocante weekends developed into a kind of family reunion for the Carters and their loyal customers-turned-friends. Making the time to spend a few minutes catching up, meeting newborns, being introduced to parents visiting from out of state, and more cemented their presence in the community.
“Those years we spent getting to know our customers and their families was unforgettable,” Celesta beamed. “It’s because of their endless support that we’re so grateful.” St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and a few Rays players also shopped there over the years, adding to the acclaim of the business—not to mention the consecutive Best of the Bay Awards.
Brocante closed with a grand flourish in December of last year after a million memories were made and just as many vintage goods found new homes. Since then, the Carters have spent time doing home projects and planning post-quarantine trips.
“We got to help make everyone’s house beautiful and now it’s our turn,” Celesta said.
What’s their message to all the people who shopped at Brocante over the years? “We can’t thank you enough and we could not have existed without you all. That’s the best feeling when you work hard and people like it,” Sean said.
See all winners from Best of the Bay 2020.
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