Mongers Market A treasure trove of reclamations
Developers converting old industrial buildings into modern businesses is nothing new around southwestern Connecticut. But few have taken the approach that John Hiden has followed with his warehouse of salvaged goods.
On a stretch of road that is seeing development of apartments, a charter school and other businesses, Hiden’s Mongers Market at 1155 Railroad Ave. is creating a unique reason for people to come to Bridgeport. After six years of restoring what had been a blighted factory building visible to thousands of drivers every day on Interstate 95, he’s opened a market that has attracted not only customers but other merchants — or mongers — who turn salvaged metals and objects into products to furnish a home, or more.
“It’s feels very gratifying and rewarding to get it open and to see people come in and see their reactions, and the people have been very appreciative and complimentary,” he said.
A different kind of treasure
Hiden’s move into the salvaged wares industry is in many ways in line with where he started.
“I’ve always had interest in it, but it turned out to be the main event,” he said.
After more than 20 years operating Hiden Galleries, a multidealer antique shop in Stamford, rising rent drove him up the coast. In search of a new home for his business, he purchased the former Pratt, Read and Co. factory on the West End of Bridgeport in 2012.
Like most of the factory buildings that sat along the city skyline at that time, Hiden said the site was deteriorating with blown out windows and leaks, and it had been stripped for its copper. While his original plan was to revamp and decorate the site with an array of industrial props and salvaged items for the antique center, Hiden’s passions had shifted.
He chose to go a different route with the space, converting it into a trove of vintage, industrial, architectural, salvaged and reclaimed objects, available for purchase
“With the industry going downhill in the antique business, it just made more sense to change gears,” he said. “It’s the same kind of treasure hunt, it’s just a different kind of treasure. It started off as an antique center and it just morphed into something else.”
While he was rebuffed by local banks when he sought out traditional funding, Hiden secured the building through financing from the previous owner.
Filling 75,000 square feet of space is no easy feat, but Hiden said he’s amassed his inventory of reclaimed treasures through auctions, Craigslist, condemned buildings and a network of dealers in the area.
“It’s a pretty small community of dealers out here,” Hiden said last week, talking on the phone while salvaging the doors of a Waterbury church slated for demolition.
For the merchants who peddle their wares at Mongers Market, the 72,000-square-foot venue has provided a unique opportunity by virtue of its sheer size.
“This place should take off, and I think there are very few places like this on the East Coast,” said Tom “Papa” Papageorge, one of the 10 merchants who currently occupy market space in the building.
Mongers Market opens to the public once a week, on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hiden also provides showings Monday through Wednesday by appointment with customers after developing a working relationship with them.
Fellow merchant and tenant Janis Melone, who’s been salvaging and recycling items for roughly 15 years, said places like Hiden’s don’t exist in the area.
“It’s like going to a museum of industrial artifacts,” she said. “I was so infected by what he had accomplished and the energy that he had put forth in that place that I said that I didn’t need another place.”
As the popularity and word gets out, Hiden is looking to increase to roughly 50 merchants selling their items from the venue.
It wasn’t an easy journey to opening his market, but now that his business has come to fruition, Hiden is looking forward to seeing it flourish, making Bridgeport a destination for a new reason.
“People are coming from Massachusetts and Rhode Island because they see us on Facebook and because there’s not many places like this out there; it just catches people’s attention, so they make the haul,” he said.
New York resident Keith Baker is already planning on what items he wants to buy when he gets a bigger place with his girlfriend. The couple, like other customers, made their way to the Bridgeport after following the market on Facebook.
While social media offered a glimpse of what Mongers Market has to offer, Baker said it was more than he expected.
“It’s almost overwhelming because I want to look at everything all at once but then I have to settle and focus on a few things here and there,” he said. “It’s definitely something that will take two or three trips to see everything.”