Treasure Island flea: the heart and soul of San Francisco


In her TI flea t-shirt, monthly volunteer Choi sets up hula hoops to entertain the kids; she is beloved by children and parents alike!

Thinking back on my travels throughout many countries, the marketplace stands out in my mind as the most robust source of cultural information- Guatemala has Chichicastenango, Mexico City has Bazaar Sábado, Cape Town has Green Market Square, and here in San Francisco, we have Treasure Island flea.


If we define culture as the food, dress, music, spending and recreation habits of a community of people, then we need look no further than the sights, smells, purchases, and interactions taking place at Treasure Island flea. TI flea offers such an artful blend of all these elements that I make a beeline right over there whenever friends and family visit from out of town– in fact, my visitors have changed their plane tickets on occasion in order to have their visit coincide with the last Saturday and Sunday of the month. Visitors have precious little time to soak up such a culturally diverse city, but when they head back to their respective cities after an afternoon of Treasure Island flea, they have gotten the most concentrated snapshot possible of how colorful and beautiful San Francisco is as a whole.


With TI flea co-founder Angie Ansanelli in front of the tantalizing lawn of San Francisco’s most popular food trucks!

The founders and coordinators of this cultural mecca are Charles and Angie Ansanelli. Treasure Island flea opened in May 2011 as the innovative solution to a big problem in the Bay Area– Charles and Angie had been retailers and manufacturers for decades, but lacked an appropriate venue to showcase their products. By setting up TI flea, Charles and Angie have not only solved this problem for themselves, they have paid it forward by setting up this gorgeous space for other entrepreneurs to have the opportunity to showcase their items. Charles and Angie charge competitively low space-rental fees to their vendors; therefore the atmosphere of the flea market is inclusive, and no vendor is excluded from participation due to setup price.


Charles and I noshed on these donuts from Harvey’s Gourment Mini Donuts while he gave me the grand tour. This time I got to spend with Charles answered outright why this was already my seventh visit out to Treasure Island flea in the course of one year; it answered why I take my friends and family here over and over. Charles and Angie are all about inclusion, so that’s why everyone feels so happy at their market- even little kids, who tend to be totally left out of the San Francisco lifestyle. Charles and Angie shipped in four tons of snow in order for the kiddos to celebrate the impending holiday season:


After romping in the snow- some of the California kids in shorts!- they can test out their backflip set against the most breathtaking backdrop of the entire San Francisco bay. Check out my other posts about Treasure Island in order to soak up more of the panoramic views!


Charles took me around to individual vendors so that I could hear their stories of how they came to set up at Treasure Island flea. Yesterday was Walter’s very first time ever at the flea selling his handmade gorgeous ceramics. Walter doesn’t even have a website yet, but please contact me if you would like his email address to get a hold of one of his gorgeous colorful creations. Charles goes out of his way to ensure an inclusive experience for his vendors– he personally helped Walter set up his table for the first time in order to create the best shopping experience for the customers.


My favorite story from Treasure Island flea surrounds Duke, who was a street artist painting these amazing oil scenes on glass and discarded windows. Charles personally chased Duke through the streets for a good year until Duke finally agreed to come set up at Treasure Island. I heard Duke say to Charles “thank you for making me come here.” It is this tireless persistence in both Charles and Angie’s personalities that make the monthly event as seamlessly wonderful as it is!


By the time I had concluded my thorough tour with Charles, I was completely famished. Friends make fun of me for always taking pictures of my food, and here it is:


I devoured the “bento box” at the Slider Shack– pulled pork on a bed of jasmine rice, finisshed with Asian slaw and a green spicy cilantro salsa. It didn’t stand a chance!

I was about to make my way towards my car (free parking at TI flea!), when I passed the Waialea jewelry stand. The artist from Hawaii is Kaili, and her gorgeous delicate pieces are inspired by shells and stones from her home. In order to really put the final bow on this sense of community that I feel at Treasure Island flea, Kaili’s best friend had recently led a group of my 6th grade students on a field trip! The world is truly a small place, and all roads lead to Treasure Island flea!


Make your way over to Treasure Island flea the last Saturday and Sunday of each month. Heading east out of San Francisco, take a left on exit 4A from the Bay Bridge, follow the road down the hill, and it leads you straight into the heart of the flea market. The 108 on Muni gets you there as well. Bring $3 for entry and be ready to enjoy shopping, live music, food trucks, and an all-encompassing sense of community!

Please also be sure to join Charles and Angie on Sat. Dec. 14 at Jack London Square in Oakland. It comes as no surprise that they are also the coordinators of Jack of All Trades– a more recent venture taking place on the 2nd Saturday of each month.

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5 Comments on “Treasure Island flea: the heart and soul of San Francisco”

  1. Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats January 30, 2014 at 21:18 #

    Hi Marissa, you know we have never been to Treasure Island yet! This post has inspired me to add it to the list of SF things we must do soon!

    • Marisa LaValette January 31, 2014 at 10:05 #

      Hi Jessica!

      Thanks for exploring the blog… in fact, TI flea can be a great place for us to get the other travel bloggers to meet up, especially with all the food trucks! The next one is Feb. 22 & 23. I can go on the 22nd. Would you mind sharing this post forward with your blogger friends? TI flea specifically asked me to write it for them!

      Thanks for the support!

      • Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats February 3, 2014 at 19:22 #

        Sure, will do. Yes, that might be a good place to meet. Email me to keep chatting about blogger meetup. I will try to get some more names this weekend.

  2. Josephine April 20, 2014 at 17:13 #

    Sƿot on with this write-uρ, I trulу thbink this website
    needs far mοre attention. I’ll probably be retսrning to read more, thanκs for
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  1. Girl Rising (PG-13): An Impetus for Social Entrepreneurship | SavvyCitiZen - March 29, 2014

    […] Where does social entrepreneurship come in with all of this? One leaves this movie with a sense of wanting to go out immediately and solve the world’s problems. Screening this movie coincided with my budding efforts towards setting myself up as a social entrepreneur. As you’ve seen in an earlier post, I’ve started taking jewelry lessons at Workshop,  and since then I’ve been formulating a plan to sell my creations at places like my favorite Treasure Island flea. […]

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