Vendor at downtown Dallas marketplace rejects rent hike

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by CHRIS HAWES

WFAA

Posted on August 4, 2010 at 9:53 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 4 at 9:55 PM

Roasting coffee is a labor of love for Chris Kaplan, owner of Mawker Coffee.

He's been doing it for 11 years at the Dallas Farmers Market — but not any more.

"This would be the best time to leave rather than be bankrupt by January," Kaplan said.

That's because the cost for his space at the city-owned market will be going up next month, and the upward trend will continue through January.

Between rent and electricity, Kaplan was paying roughly $700 a month for space, a price he says could reach near the $2,000 mark by the end of the year.

"We would not be able to stay there and stay viable," Kaplan said. "They are significant hits you would take on the rent."

The city says Kaplan knew the changes were coming as part of his contract.

"We've tiered the rent to give them time to build up their business," said Farmers Market administrator Janel Leatherman. "Everyone who signed a dealer permit knows exactly what their rent will be for the first year."

Kaplan doesn't deny that, but he says the Farmers Market doesn't bring in enough traffic to compensate for the increased charges.

Right now, Kaplan says he and other vendors worry they are seeing growth of less than 1 percent a month. "We do talk to one another, and it's been a big concern," he said.

But Leatherman said that may not be as big a concern for other merchants. "I have other vendors up there that are telling me they are having huge increases in business."

So now, the Farmers Market team is hard at work finding new dealer vendors to replace a familiar face of more than a decade.

E-mail sslater@wfaa.com

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