Houston’s New $10 Million Farmers Market Could Learn Plenty from Dallas (No, Really)

A Closer-to-Home Surprise Success Story

BY // 09.12.17

The Dallas Farmers Market can surprise you, like Rush Limbaugh suddenly realizing that hurricanes really do exist surprise you. I certainly didn’t expect to find myself going there several days in a row, trying something new every time. But that’s what happened during a recent trip that put me in downtown Dallas for a stretch.

Dallas’ farmers market excels at convenience. It is right there, easily walkable from a number of downtown hotels. You can have a nice red snapper dinner one night, nosh on pork tacos for lunch the next and get your kids grilled cheese sandwiches they remember. And ask for later.

These are lessons the developers of the ultra-ambitious, $10 million renovation transformation of the Houston Farmers Market would be wise to consider. The leaders of MLB Capital Partners, the commercial real estate investment firm that purchased Houston Farmers Market, are rightfully setting their sights on Seattle’s Pike Place Market, London’s Borough Market and Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market as models.

They want to Houston Farmers Market to be one of the best farmers markets in the entire world. But they’d better make sure it’s at least as good as Dallas’ farmers market first.

Yes — as painful as the prospect may be to some — Houston can sometimes learn something from Dallas. (Don’t worry, admitting that doesn’t make the Dallas Cowboys any less annoying.)

Dallas Farmers Market is worthy because of its food hall-like scene. In three days there, I don’t think I had one close up look at a tomato. Oh, you can get produce there. But the mini restaurants and food stands are what stand out. It is nice to be able to go with a group or your family and have all those options. Everyone gets to pick whatever they feel like eating individually and then your whole pack can actually eat it together at one of the open tables in the middle of the market.

Dallas Farmers Market has produce, but that’s not necessarily what draws people in.

This farmers market thing is not rocket science — or an overhyped iPhone 8. Dallas Farmers Market works by putting established hip brands such as Coolhaus (the cookie ice cream people) in the same space as more local shops such as Lone Chimney Mercantile (cool Texas photos and trinkets), Mudhaven Meat and Greens (a farm to table spot) and Taqueria La Ventana (a local taco chain).

The fact Dallas Farmers Market is open every day helps. If you have kids, the bouncy bug, outdoor chalk boards and little climbing apparatus doesn’t hurt either.

Houston Farmers Market already plans to one up that by being open 365 days a year and having some type of significant playground — and plenty of green space. With 17 and a half acres to work with, Houston Farmers Market has a much larger canvas to utilize. But while Dallas Farmers Market is right downtown, and easily walkable from a number of hotels, Houston Farmers Market will still be out at the 2500 block of Airline Road site in North Houston.

If you build it, the yuppies will come?

We kid, because we understand how much Houston could use this type of draw. The team behind this $10 million farmers market revamp yearn to make something world class. Just don’t forget Dallas’ more modest, surprisingly good example as a baseline.

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