All-American is a series that looks at beloved, longstanding North Texas eateries and examines their histories while exploring how the food has changed — for the good or bad — over the years.
It has been a steep and heavy climb for Chuck Cole. He’s the sole owner of Corner Market — first a flower shop, then a deli that opened in 2006 — and the weight of Greenville Avenue’s streets on his shoulders has increased in pressure year over year. He accepts the tasks that are in front of him, whether it's pulling espresso or delivering flowers to his longtime customers. Still, fatigue is evident in his voice.
“It’s rough. The last two and a half years have been the roughest,” he says softly.
In 2006, a spike in crime accompanied Greenville bars' late closing hours. There were shootings. But word of mouth kept Cole's engines hot. He poured screamingly fresh-roasted coffee in the mornings and pressed sandwiches mopped in butter at lunch.
Despite other restaurants' boozy tendencies, alcohol was out of the question for Corner Market. A city ordinance prevents restaurants from selling alcohol near churches. About a 300 paces from the Market's door, you’ll find Unity on Greenville wedged into the corner. Cole tried to get the ordinance changed, but he lost the battle.
In 2008, when the economy nose-dived, Corner Market’s business did the same. His orders for holiday catering crashed that year from more than a hundred jobs to two. He soldiered on with hot sandwiches and salads.
“Now, there’s a coffee shop on every corner. The city’s always doing something down there,” Cole says.
Construction has ripped and shredded the street. Condos are going up behind Cole's market, swallowing up parking spots on both sides of the street. Rain in February sent leaks spiraling down the condos' walls and ceilings, so workers are redoing swaths of stucco.
Recently, the city carved up McCommas Boulevard, which included Corner Market’s parking lot. It’s all cost Cole money.
“People avoid construction like the plague. We’ve been in dire straits,” he says.
Corner Market is the kind of place that Dallas shouldn't want to lose. It’s a neighborhood joint that exists outside of the wells of trends. There are simple and classic pimento cheese sandwiches and charred breakfast burritos that break up hangovers like sunlight through a thunderstorm. On the roof, beehives swell with honey in late spring. In May, Cole will pick bushels of fresh blueberries from the skyward garden, and herbs are harvested from his roof year-round. Since Corner Market opened in 2006, Cole’s had deals with local bakeries and farms, including Empire for thick cuts of marble rye.
Sandwiches are still made with Boar’s Head cold cuts, which makes for easygoing if unoriginal lunch options. They work. They eat big and healthy; often, that’s all you need. Cole's salads are fresh as rain, spiked with bright pesto or tossed in simple olive oil and vinegar. His cook’s been with him for 12 years.
On a whiskey-soaked morning, it’s a good idea to ask for your breakfast burrito pressed in the panini grill. Pan-fried red potatoes and sticky yellow cheese encrust the halved burrito like charred gold. Shove it into your face with salsa. Coffee is rich and strong, too.
Dallas shouldn’t lose this place, but it feels like its time is running out.
“There’s a lot of competition,” Cole says. “Brokers have oversold Greenville. Some of the restaurants across the street are lasting three or four months.”
A nearby poke joint tanked faster than an NBC game show. A Starbucks struggled to stand out next to the popular Tex-Mex chain Gloria's.
“A lot of them close before I get the chance to try them out,” Cole says.
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What’s going to happen to the 12-year-old deli? Cole hopes to keep the quality as high as he can. He’ll keep using sharp, high-grade shreds for his pimento cheese. He’ll sell sodas in crisp, cold glass bottles and will use butter-swiped rye bread.
Pressure seems to be building. Despite ongoing construction, is there a time limit on Corner Market's stay on Greenville?
“Well, I have a time limit. It’s a lot of work,” and that’s when he laughs.
Corner Market, 3426 Greenville Ave.