Collected Thoughts: Ahmad Thompson On The Flamingo & JXN Flea
Ahmad Thompson knows a thing or two about style.
As part-owner of The Flamingo, a curated events space and vintage shop, and JXN Flea, one of the city’s preeminent markets for minority businesses and creatives, he’s fashioning community out of a collective love for art, furniture, and clothing.
With a new space at The Heights behind Urban Foxes, we caught up with him on what makes his enterprise unique, what he’s learned in the process, and what advice he would give to the aspiring vintage seller.
Can you tell us the story behind The Flamingo Collective/JXN Flea? What inspired you to start this venture?
In 2016, we launched The Flamingo with a group of six partners, which eventually became just my brother and me. We transformed a leased building on State Street, now End Of All Music, into a low-key event space focused on serving the Black, Brown, and queer communities to address the lack of representation in the neighborhood at the time. The only condition was that the company's name should be The Flamingo, as a nod to the building's history; there used to be a pink room in the back called The Flamingo. Plus, it’s just a great nickname.
We also share an interest in design and vintage furniture, and love going to things like the Brooklyn Flea Market. We wanted to create a niche for those who didn't traditionally have a place to belong. That's how both The Flamingo and JXN Flea came to life.
What makes that setup unique compared to similar businesses in the area?
We set our flea market apart by championing Black and Brown businesses, while also welcoming diversity. Our focus is on supporting women, and Black and Brown entrepreneurs, in line with our Jackson community’s demographics. We also keep our price point reasonable for vendors to participate which helps everyone generate revenue.
As for The Flamingo, we stand out by offering vintage furniture, clothing, and design items in a city where these are not traditionally associated with Black communities. We want to provide affordable options for our customers. We recognize that many in Jackson are working hard to make ends meet, but they should still have access to great design without breaking the bank.
What's the most valuable lesson you've learned as a business owner?
There are three big ones. First, consistency of product is vital in our business, and figuring out the pricing model and tastes of the market you’re selling to. Number two is knowledge of the craft. While I wasn't initially well-versed in vintage furniture, I researched and partnered with more experienced sellers who helped me learn about design. Third, affordability plays a crucial role in our business model, too. We've been fortunate to find support and affordable spaces to operate in, which allows us to maintain competitive prices and adapt.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own creative or retail business?
Starting a resale business requires perseverance and research. Expect some initial missteps as you build your inventory and learn pricing strategies. Visiting other resale shops and networking can provide really valuable insights. When you launch, define your niche, target audience, and pricing strategy to stand out. And always remember – the resale community is generally very supportive of one another – we want to foster collaboration over competition.