John McIntosh is passionate about a lot of things. From the DIY hemp sandals he wears to the latest health news, when he gets excited about something, he wants to share it. So next month, he will begin sharing his love for healthy food and a well-kept grocery store with downtown Dallas.
Friday's grand opening of Urban Vineyard marks the first venture McIntosh will launch with his childhood friends Loc Tran and Umair Hameed. The upscale wine bar and liquor store will be followed by Urban Orchard Market, a grocery store a la Trader Joe's, and then Bar None, a sushi bar and sandwich shop.
On Saturday afternoon, bright white, empty shelves lined Urban Vineyard awaiting the delivery of liquor, wine and beer. "Stop by anytime August 1," McIntosh said with a grin. "There will be so much liquor delivered here it will be crazy."
The 27-year-olds had limited experience in small business and shop management before they hatched the plan to start a corner market. But they've made an exceptional team. Hameed handles the business side, Tran is the go-to operational man, and McIntosh handles social media marketing, as well as providing expertise on healthy products. Original speculations for the concept were in their hometown of Fort Worth, but when that fell through they saw that Dallas had a similar need.
Urban Market, which inhabited the space previously, served as the go-to downtown grocer for seven years before shuttering in 2012. During its time in the space, downtown Dallas grew from 2,000 residents to 7,500-plus, and the store went through bumpy transitions from classy grocery store to a shared space with an off-brand dollar store. All the while, the city of Dallas assisted them with additional funds.
"On one hand it's a shame that we won't receive the same kind of funding," McIntosh said. "But we have the advantage of a very clear vision."
Thanks to McIntosh's obsession with wellness, the market and café will be very health-conscious. He's committed to bringing gluten-free, vegetarian and organic options to the area. When Bar None opens it will have a taco bar, a sushi bar and a selection of sandwiches, but phase two for the restaurant will be a "health stand" with juices and smoothies. And Urban Orchard Market will have a book corner, which will include selections from McIntosh's library.
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"Think Trader Joe's meets Whole Foods with a little bit of Green Grocer," McIntosh said. "For years, I've been shopping at those stores and piecing together what I think works and what doesn't. This will be the best combination of all those things."
All three storefronts face a courtyard on Browder Street cattycorner to the AT&T building. They connect inside making it easy to grab your groceries, a bottle of Grey Goose and sushi to go. And if you can contain your visit to two hours, the stores validate parking in the Interurban building.
"Once we get everything open we have a lot of ideas about how to integrate the stores into the neighborhood," McIntosh said, listing run clubs and block parties as potential ideas. Currently a resident of Plano, he too is looking to become part of the neighborhood. During our visit Steve Shepherd, president of the Downtown Dallas Resident's Council, poked his head in to check on progress and they talked about condos and apartments, anxious to get the three shop owners downtown.
"I'm excited about the idea of living downtown right now," McIntosh said. "I think we have the advantage of right place, right time with our businesses."