akichi flea

This Airstream Has Fleas (and Vintage Ones at That)

So you love vintage motorcycles, and maybe even riding those motorcycles in vintage clothes, which you also love. And maybe you ride those motorcycles all the way to Wisconsin (by way of Florida) from New York to check out some vintage trailers, which you think might make great vintage-goods shops, shops that could be the signature stores for a recurring weekend flea market in an empty Brooklyn lot. It’s a bit of a convoluted tale—but then again, many tales that involve a love of vintage Airstreams are.

“We just love vintage things,” says Hisaki Kiyohara, one of the principles behind Akichi Flea, which opened this summer in a Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Vendors in the market sell vintage clothing, collectibles, art and antiques, and more, but one of the vendor’s stores really shines: “Deadman Walking,” purveying vintage goods out of a customized 1971 Airstream Sovereign.

Kiyohara and his crew actually trucked three trailers home for their vintage-merchandise venture: the Sovereign, a ’61 Airstream Overlander, and a ’51 Spartan. The other two trailers are used as vendor storage now, but the plan is to make them into shops as well. Kiyohara and friends spent some time transforming the Sovereign into Deadman, putting on the exterior artwork and employing selected 2x4s in a herringbone pattern for the floor. “We used wood stain to make the floor look old. The walls were also rebuilt—very roughly!—with installations to create the atmosphere of a countryside flea market,” says Kiyohara.

Akichi means “empty space” in Japanese, which ties into the group’s interest in transforming a scruffy, barren urban lot into a lively place of fun and commerce. They wanted to contribute to the neighborhood both by cleaning up the Akichi space and bringing people in to see and participate. People have responded—especially to the Airstream: “People love how we customized it into a shop. We’ve had Airstream lovers tell us they came from the West Coast and London, just to check out our Airstreams. It’s great to share stories with others who love Airstreams!” says Kiyohara.

The flea market will stay open until October, and probably resume in spring of next year. But Deadman Walking will stay opened year-round. “We are still looking for vendors who are interested in being part of us. We would like to have something for everyone,” says Kiyohara.

akichi flea

It was no small effort to bring the trailers back to Brooklyn: 60 hours trucking from Florida, 30 hours from Wisconsin, and on the way home from Florida, one of the trailers suffered a broken window and a runaway tire. But Kiyohara and his friends at Akichi know it’s worth it: “We understand the sense of beauty of an old Airstream trailer,” he says. Find out more at the Akichi Flea Tumblr site.

-By Tom Bentley