City Hall has sold the Dallas Farmers Market to DF Market Holdings for $3.2 million dollars. Earlier this week, though, the transaction became official. Changes and renovations might start as early as this winter. Shed 3 and 4 are getting demolished to make room for new apartments, and the city will still be taking over Shed 1, which is “scheduled to have some 60 booths, or twice the current number of spaces,” says Robert Wilonsky. Shed 2, which houses the line-crazy Pecan Lodge, is also getting some work done. But, according to owner Justin Fourton, Pecan Lodge might not remain at the Dallas Farmers Market. He’s been on the prowl for a new space since last year.
This morning, I noticed a tweet from Pecan Lodge: “Rec’d calls from mayors of 3 different cities offering us incentives. None were from City of Dallas :-/”
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I called the power couple of Dallas barbecue, Diane and Justin Fourton, and had a chat. They won’t say who has contacted them, but they are hurt the city of Dallas has not reached out. They aren’t the only business confused by the actions of the city. The Fourtons, like the other businesses in Shed 2, invested their own money for the finish out of their spaces. “We put our life savings into this space,” said Diane. “We bought into the City’s vision of Shed 2 when we opened our catering company. They came to all of the temporary business here and said ‘build out or get out’ and many them invested and stayed. We all believed in the city’s vision. We didn’t intend to leave. Now, three years later, they [new owners] are going to gut it and, if we stay, we won’t see that money.” The Fourtons admit the new ownership has been “nice and supportive,” even trying to help them figure out how to install another smoker for Pecan Lodge.
According to the Fourtons, all of the businesses are confused. I can certainly see why. The new owners are just getting into the redo and have their hands full. But I can’t help but wonder how and why this business transaction did not contain a transition program to protect the current tenants, some of which have only been in business for six months. Now those businesses are out in the cold and, from what I understand, will not realize any of the funds they have put into their business.
The frustration of the tenants should be on the top of the things-to-fix list. “They are going to gut Shed 2 and put in a new sewer line,” said Diane. “I just wish somebody would say ‘here is how we will help you run your businesses while we’re under construction.’ I don’t see how we, or any of us, can operate under those conditions. It’s crazy.”
“We don’t want any special treatment,” said Justin. “But the city hasn’t helped or nurtured any of the businesses here. They knew when they approved the redevelopment plans that we would all lose our investments. We’re very disappointed.”
Justin channels Joni Mitchell. “It seems to be a common theme with Dallas that they don’t know what they’ve got till it’s gone,” said Justin.
The Fourtons are weighing their options (they’re lucky they have them!). Let’s hope somebody makes all of the current businesses a sweet deal to stay and helps them through the transition. The Dallas Farmers Market is now a private business with P & Ls and all that jazz. And if making money talks, then barbecue could walk.