Didn't intend to follow-up Monday's item about Dallas Farmers Market landing an anchor for Shed No. 2 with news about the shed's lack of an electrical inspection and certificate of occupancy; just worked out that way. Instead, I'd intended to follow with a brief chat with Janel Leatherman, the market's administrator and the woman charged with finding a way to lure specialty-food producers into the $3.2 million shed, which remains at around 25 percent occupancy.
There are in Shed 2 very few "permanent" tenants, among them Mawker Coffee, Kurry King, the Texas Meats consortium out of Greenville and a few soap, jewelry and tchotchke merchants. Pecan Lodge Catering doesn't open till February at the earliest; Old World Sausage Co. should open in a week or so; while others -- the bread-makers from Rosey Ridge Farm, a shrimp seller, Chapman's Chili Kitchen, some local winemakers -- rotate in and out without much permanence. Leatherman says she's working to change that by signing some to yearlong vendor permits.
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"We're in conversations with three other specialty food vendors, and until I have a commitment I can't really talk about that," she says. "Some of our longtime vendors have moved to the spaces they will ultimately be occupying, and they will start their build-outs as well. We're at a point now where we are a little more than 25 percent occupied. We've lost one of our import vendors, but so far so good."
She also points to a third "permanent" vendor: Mobile Knife Sharpening. But she's desperate to fill the place with "specialty-food vendors," as she calls them, because they're the ones who'll bring foot traffic down to the market -- especially during the non-summer months, when the sheds, especially the locally grown Shed No. 1, aren't filled with folks snapping up peaches and tomatoes.
And it's imperative for the city to get specialty-food makers downtown: It didn't look good when the city started shutting down smaller local farmers markets over the summer, and many of those vendors started hustling to out-of-town markets (such as those in McKinney and Frisco) in order to make up lost revenue. Matter of fact, Leatherman says, in a year she hopes to have Shed 2 filled up -- 100 percent. Hence, recent recruitment efforts to bring folks into the shed -- including those, like cookie-maker Paul Wackym, who's still outside in the elements.
"That's certainly our goal," she says. "Realistically, it may be less than that."