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Dallas Farmers Market Administrator Aiming to Fill Shed 2 "100 Percent" In Year's Time

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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.

"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."

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