Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Portrait. The Shop Owner: Lea from affär

A little while ago I had coffee with Lea from affär at our local café. We talked a lot about flea markets, vintage, the love of finding and og old stuff with stories. And about being an independent woman with small kids following her dreams.

Lea is without doubt the most passionate flea market lover I have ever met.
She is also very happy.
I think she is doing exactly what she wants to.

Lea's little shop affär is my favorite shop at Amager where I live. I am sure many of you are already familiar with her fine little shop selling fantastic Swedish vintage.

Hope you will enjoy reading more about Lea and her passion.

How did you start affär and how did you get the idea for the shop?

I have always wanted to do something on my own – I just didn’t know what. In high school, I dreamt about opening a magazine shop because I loved reading all kinds of magazines. Then we moved to Sweden and had a child. When we moved I was studying multimedia design, but soon it became too complicated to live so far away from the school, and I decided to drop out and to re-think the whole situation. Being in “the country of fleas” – that I simply loved – the idea of affär seemed straightforward. I have always loved flea markets – and I have always bought way too many things just because of their beauty. affär opened in May 2007 – four years ago now.

Describe affär as a shop, project, life style…?

affär is definitely a life style – both for me and my customers. I love to find little fine things with lots of personality. This is one of the things I do really well: To hand-pick the fine things. For example, I was at a flea market on Bornholm with my sister-in-law last weekend. She didn’t find anything – and she actually only saw the things after I had found them. I have trained my eyes, and dare to pick up things that others don’t even notice at first glance – but in the right context the finds seem just right.

When and how did your passion for vintage start?

I was working as a waitress when a colleague of mine, who loved flea markets, took me to the market in Lyngby. I was instantly hooked. The worst example on things I didn’t buy is three small Krenit bowls for 70 DKK. That was back in the 90’s, but I will never forget. My next flea market was in KB Hallen. I found a coffee tin and a small creamer. These were my first two finds, and I will keep them forever.

Why is thrifting important and why do you think that so many people are fascinated by second hand and old, used things?

The idea of recycling is good in itself. Besides, I think that it is the many stories connected to old things that are fascinating. It’s like sitting at the railway station watching people and imagining all their stories. I feel the same when I look at my old chair at home – I cannot help wondering how many people used it before me. Design history is of course also interesting but in no way a must for me – I hardly own any design objects! I like worn out things – it just adds more layers to the stories.

How do you find new things for the shop?

The first couple of years I used a lot of time searching the Internet for the good flea markets. Now I know the places and the routes. During summer I go to the markets of sports clubs, scouts, dog clubs and so on. Places that have the things donated for free and are reselling them in order to raise money for the club. During winter I routinely visit the more common thrift stores – Myrorna, Red Cross, Amnesty International and so on – and a single auction, that I have become addicted to. This I primarily in Sweden, but if I ever travel in Denmark I cannot help looking there as well. My dream is to go to Holland, France and London – not regularly, but just once in a while to be inspired.

Do you search for something particularly?

My eyes are dictating. I love colours, graphic forms and irregular stuff with a life behind them – things that somebody really loved. I usually say that I sell things from the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s give or take 10 years…That means that I cover almost 80 years ;-) I am open for everything as long as my eyes are caught – and yet I guess that I unconsciously do have a style – “the affär style”.

How do you live yourself? Describe your home…?

Colourful and changeable. I guess that’s the two words that describe my home the best. We live almost completely with flea market finds – most of the new things are discarded after a while. Actually, I think that our only new furniture is the sofa. All my kitchenware is old. And our house is of course old as well – it’s from 1933 with high ceilings and a big garden.

What’s the best find for your self, personally?

My husband! He was also used ;-) All my finds make me happy. Maybe the most visible thing though is a red seven-armed Swedish wooden candlestick. But all the details count, that I found the things and that all of them carry stories within them. I remember exactly at which flea markets I found every single object – and by extension which customers that buy my finds in affär.

How does it work for you to be a shop owner and independent while having little kids?

It works because we have arranged things in a way where my husband is working from home so that he can take care of illness and pick up our son from kindergarten. I follow him to kindergarten everyday, because affär opens a little later. Sometimes Elliott “punishes” me when I work too much – and when I am finally at home I want him to come with me to the weekend’s flea markets. Luckily for me, he accepts this if the flea market offers korv och bröd [hotdogs] – and they always do at the sport clubs!

Why did you pick Amager as location for the shop?

Primarily for practical reasons, off course, because we live in Scania – but also because Amager is part of the Öresund Region, and I thought it would be nice with a little Swedish second hand shop on Amager. I guess, I would have preferred Vesterbro where I used to live myself – but this would add at least 30-40 minutes commuting time. When I opened affär there were no other shops of this type at Amager. Today, we have both Smukt Brugt [the new neighbour shop of affär!], Tante Tuli and Sundbyvester Varehus. Maybe Amager will turn into a new vintage paradise…

What is the best thing about Amager? Favorite spots?

Ingolfs Kaffebar [a local café]! Both the interior and the ambience are wonderful.

Any good tips for those who would like to start thrifting?

Spend a lot of time! Buy what you fall in love with at first sight – whether it is in a shop or at a flea market. You can always resell it if it does not fit in. The worst is to miss out on something!

What’s your current obsession?

Going to flea markets! To organize my home, to work in and for affär. I love to make the newsletter and to update the website – actually, I love everything in relation to affär!

Future plans and dreams for affär?

My future plans have just completed a chapter because affär and Brugt Smukt have moved in together. The contact with Laura from Brugt Smukt began the day Laura entered the old affär shop, and we started talking. Laura also dreamt about opening a vintage shop, and I encouraged her just to do so. Very soon Brugt Smukt opened. We have been corresponding throughout all of the process in a very positive way. The friendship has grown out of our common passion. Shortly before New Year, Laura called me to tell that the shop next door to Brugt Smukt was available. She figured out that we could open up the wall between the two shops. In this way we still have each our shop with separate entrances, and still we can work together and help each other. We believe that the two shops will only strengthen each other. There is a good energy between us – both of us love what we do.

What would you like to provide for your customers – besides, of course, lots of fine vintage finds…?

There is a lot of older people coming into affär who get a kind of memory kick. It’s wonderful to give an experience in this way. Generally, I wish to inspire my visitors, whether they buy something or not.



  1. I love this interview -- thank you. Now I want to visit Amager so much.



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