When you think of areas in DFW where local business is booming, it’s likely DeSoto isn’t at the top of the list. But with the help of the city’s economic development corporation, one man is looking to speed up that process with Grow DeSoto Market Place. For owner Monte Anderson, who owns the Belmont Hotel, this particular project hits close to home.
“I’ve grown up in southern Dallas County my whole life,” Anderson says. “I made a decision many years ago to specialize and stay in my own neighborhoods and work in them. I specialize in retail and office and mixed-use properties. I rehab hotels and old shopping centers. I actually owned this shopping center before. When the old Ace Hardware became available, I bought it back.
"The thought was, 'Who wants to go in one of these old shopping centers?’" Anderson says. "And the only thing we could get at the time was a 99 Cents store. The mayor came to me and asked, 'Is there anything better we can do?'”
Turns out, there was, by providing a place for locals to have an entry point into entrepreneurship without having to take out a big loan or mortgage their future. The Grow DeSoto Market Place held their grand opening over the weekend. While the event brought out a crowd, one thing that stuck out immediately was the array of micro-businesses populating the marketplace. We've already written about two of the market's food options: Crazii Potatoez and a vegan eatery called Peace, Love & Eatz. There's also a bakery called Delightful Sweets.
“It’s not just about leasing space and making money,” Anderson says. “It’s really about curating the space, putting the right tenants in here — the right occupants. Everything from the photographer to the health club to dance, to food, to retail. Having a good mixture ensures someone is here all the time, and that something is going on here all the time.”
In June 2017, a pitch day was held for those interested in becoming a part of the marketplace, and 40 applicants pitched their business. A committee oversaw the application process.
Jo Ashley Edwinna Mignon is an artist who owns Seven 1 Seven Boutique and creates mixed-media pieces, which are also displayed at the marketplace.
“I design handbags, hats and earrings," she says. "I was home-based at first. But a friend of mine who happens to be one of my clients told me about the marketplace. This is my first time stepping out so I’m looking forward to great things."
Another marketplace tenant is photographer Enoch Odu of Enoch Odu Studios.
“I grew up in DeSoto, but I was never actually here in DeSoto,” Odu says. “We didn’t do anything here. We’d wake up and shoot straight over to Dallas. That’s where I would conduct business. That’s where I’d meet friends. But DeSoto is a neat community, a safe community. Dallas is cool, but I think there’s a lot of uncovered things here.”
Many of the businesses and eateries in Grow DeSoto are owned by African American entrepreneurs, who often face additional barriers to opening a new business.
“What I find in the African American community is an extreme amount of creativity and a lack of experience when it comes to access to practice business,” Anderson says. “I think it’s so important that we figure out how to build wealth for local people, bottom line. There are not enough black-owned businesses, there’s not enough black-owned real estate, there’s not enough black-owned banks. The secret sauce is in the locals. It’s in the culture of the locals.”