Dallas Farmers Market shed has new focus

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by By DIANNE SOL?S / The Dallas Morning News

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:46 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 1:36 PM

At the Dallas Farmers Market's Shed No. 2, food is in and furniture is out.

REX C. CURRY/Special Contributor
Natividad Rios, who has spent a decade building Rios Interiors at the Dallas Farmers Market, is relocating. At times, 'the city of Dallas is impossible to work with,' he said. City officials say they want Shed No. 2 to focus tightly on specialty foods produced in Texas.

The 10,000-square-foot space has undergone a renovation that took more than a year, and now some vendors are feeling unwelcome.One of them is Rios Interiors, which opened at the downtown Dallas market at a time when pigeons roosted in the rafters and the summers nearly roasted everything under the tin roof. Over the last decade, Natividad Rios built a customer list of 6,000 for his rustic, solidly built furniture imported from Mexico.

But a year ago, the furniture designer moved much of his business to Fort Worth. This weekend Rios will sell everything that's left in Dallas.

The vendor said working with his landlord, the city of Dallas, was frustrating, at best. And at other times, "the city of Dallas is impossible to work with," he said.

At City Hall, Sol Calinao, a market spokeswoman, defended the city's marketing decisions. She wouldn't say whether the city has asked vendors to leave but said furniture vendors don't fit the new focus of Shed No. 2. And she noted that the city worked with Rios so he could transition into his new Fort Worth venue.

"Our focus is more on food and food-related items," Calinao said.

The other huge sheds of the Dallas Farmers Market have long pitched fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts - traditional fare of any outdoor market.

But selling food products at the semi-enclosed Shed No. 2 was challenging without some climate control. Freeze or fry is how one vendor referred to temperatures. That's why Shed No. 2 became an emporium of home furnishings, handmade soap, amber jewelry and Mexican crafts.

Now city officials want a tight focus on specialty foods produced in Texas, with few deviations. But the renovation took more than a year and coincided with a recession that's deflated sales.

Today, the shed is home to a reduced number of businesses. They include stores featuring Mexican imports, artisan soaps and scrubs, baked sweets and freshly ground coffees. Many operate on reduced schedules.

The Farmers Market will hold a grand opening when Shed No. 2 is half full, said Frank Poe, director of event and convention services for the city. The shed's about 30 percent full now, he said.

"We are keeping that date fluid just because we don't know what the impact of the economy will be on ongoing vendor recruitment," Poe said. But this summer is a target, Poe added.

Some are sad to see Rios leave.

He had marketing hustle, said Renee Mitchell, owner of Abundantly Aromatic, a candle and soap company in Shed No. 2. The immigrant businessman targeted customers with postcard alerts about special events that featured mariachis, food and non-alcoholic margaritas. "As a result of him, we got a lot of business," said his admirer, who'll stay in her locale.

City bureaucracies aren't easy to navigate for entrepreneurs, said Chris Kaplan, who operates Mawker Coffee, a business he started from Shed No. 2 a decade ago with a hot air popper as a coffee roaster.

But he praised renovations as "a very good improvement. The part about the market that's missing is specialty foods. It is a dynamic part and an integral part, but you can't do it in an open-air shed."

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