Lonely Planet Writer

A flea market goes boutique at this rent-a-shelf store in Zürich

At Marta Flohmarkt in Zürich, Switzerland, the décor is changing as often as the vendors as this unique concept store looks to turn the traditional flea market into a boutique experience.

Zurich is home to a new concept in retail. Image by Marta Flohmarkt/Raisa Durandi

The idea is simple: anybody can rent a shelf here on a weekly basis and bring whatever products they want to sell. Private sellers are as welcome to flog their wares as small brands, but for the customer it means a whole lot of variety. Marta Flohmarkt can now sell anything from secondhand clothes and shoes to vintage radios and kitschy granny tea sets—whatever vendors think will fly off the shelves. The store doesn’t take commission, but is financed exclusively by the rent collected for the shelf space.

You can rent a shelf here by the week. Image by Marta Flohmarkt

‘These first four months have been great,’ says owner Myrielle Hambrecht, speaking to Lonely Planet. The shop’s shelves are all currently rented out, but unlike an actual flea market, the vendor doesn’t need to be around to sell their wares. Instead, a sales assistant works the shop floor keeping track of prices on a central database. For Hambrecht the store is a way to fight back on throwaway culture. ‘Everyone keeps talking about sustainability. For me the most sustainable product is the one that already exists,’ she says.

Marta Flohmarkt is not like a traditional flea market. Image by lechatnoir/Getty Images

Hambrecht got the idea for the shop in Finland. ‘In Finland it’s usual to look for goods at secondhand shops, instead of buying everything brand new.’ With her partner she toured huge rent-a-shelf flea markets that filled whole storage halls and they knew they wanted to open something similar in Zürich.

The shop is located in a catchy green building at Lukashof, just off Langstrasse, which supports communal living with a shared courtyard garden and a soon-to-be-opened café. ‘We don’t want to pride ourselves too much in our contribution to the well-being of the neighbourhood,’ says Hambrecht, ‘but I do see that we get a great mix of customers and vendors in our store, and how people of very different backgrounds come together here and interact. And I love that I can help to create this familiar, neighbourly atmosphere.’

Words: Claudia Peter