On Tom Spicer's little patch of land in East Dallas, Spicer's Spiceman 1410 has been providing local produce to all of Dallas' best restaurants for years, and also operated a small retail shop in a space adjacent to Jimmy's Food Store. If you've ever had that especially spicy arugula or sweet and crisp pea tendrils that Spicer cultivates every year, you know exactly how important Spicer's bounty really is.
Now, though, thanks to his landlord, Spicer will be forced to vacate the current shop space by the end of the month. As SideDish reported last week, Spicer was notified by his landlord that the building would need extensive plumbing work that would likely involve tearing the floor out of the tiny shop that sits in front of the garden. Initially, sources said that Spicer would be forced to also vacate the garden, but a comment on Facebook from Spicer last night indicated that the garden is a separately owned parcel of land, so he "may not" be leaving the garden.
Ever the survivor, Spicer is determined to keep growing. In the meantime, he really needs to clear his shop of the produce in his coolers, and sell the equipment that holds his produce. At the time of this writing, local restaurateurs were looking into ways to help Spicer beyond buying up his remaining stock, but the immediate need for Spicer is to liquidate and make some cash.
Menus across the city are littered with mentions of "Spicer's greens," a spicy mix of baby mesclun that makes salad actually enjoyable. Before Comeback Creek Farms and other local purveyors were widely distributing to Dallas' fine restaurants, it was almost exclusively Spicer. If you walked into his shop to buy a dime bag of mushrooms, you felt like a chef. You were placing your order at the same place that Matt McCallister and Bruno Davaillon did.
I stopped by Tom's garden several months ago, in the heat of the summer. We chatted for a while, and he mentioned that he didn't know then how much longer he'd be able to stay, but didn't indicate that a move was imminent. He knew that his lease was expiring, and that the landlord wasn't overly friendly to keeping him there. As SideDish reported, Spicer doesn't plan to give up on his garden.
Chef Graham Dodds, a frequent customer of Spicer's, doesn't seem to think that Spicer will be down for long. "Tom Spicer has been at this for a long time," he says. "He's certainly seen his share of restaurants come and go. Tom is resilient. His arugula isn't famous because of the plot it's grown in, it's because of Tom. He's gonna come back even stronger, like next year's asparagus."
Spicer's situation at 1410 North Fitzhugh is still in flux, but we'll keep you posted on where the garden genius lands. In the meantime, take a trip to East Dallas this week and pick up some 'shrooms and greens so that he can clear out his current inventory and raise a little cash.