DeSoto Welcomes Business Incubator, Entrepreneurs

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Business Incubator
The space once occupied by Westlake Ace Hardware will be the new home of the DeSoto Business Incubator.

DESOTO—Transformation is in the air in the City of DeSoto. Moreover, the change serves as a godsend for local entrepreneurs trying to get their businesses off the ground.

The business incubator, serves as a sounding board to see if budding entrepreneurs have a product or service that interests the public. The incubator is the vision of Best Southwest developer, Monte Anderson. The makeover allows Anderson to do what he does best – create a new vision from something already existing.

Rising from the flames, a 26,000-square-feet former Westlake Ace Hardware Store, is getting a face-lift. It is part of the 57-year-old Brookhollow Shopping Center on Belt Line Road between Polk Street and Hampton Road.

In this case, it is re-purposing the store into a “business incubator.” He likens the outcome to a flea market or antique mall, adding, “We will borrow those concepts that work and make them better.”

Luke’s Soul Food Cafe hopes to find a new home at the DeSoto Incubator.

High Quality Goods, With A Local Flair

The incubator won’t have the items one might find at flea markets or antique malls, however.  That is because Anderson stressed “We want authentic real local culture expressed in our goods.”

Using the funds he made from the sale of the Belmont Hotel in Oak Cliff, Anderson quietly acquired the shopping center.

“The business incubator is a place for small entrepreneurs to test out the market and their skills. It allows them to see if their product or service can work without going into big debt or long leases,” Anderson explained. “If it does not work, they go back home; no harm, no foul.”

Area business owners are excited about the opportunity. However, re-purposing the space to fit in with the local economy and aesthetic were the real challenges.

“Transforming a suburban junior big box hardware store or the original, Lee’s grocery store, is a big challenge,” Anderson said. “The uses that were approaching us were dollar stores or grocery stores. Neither the Mayor nor I wanted this use. Therefore, we decided to partner to reinvent this space.”

The business incubator, according to Anderson, will be home to retail, restaurants and offices.

“We are looking for authentic local uses,” he added. “Not things you can get in local big box retail stores.”

That means goodies like cupcakes, tacos, fish, barbecue or homemade jewelry, candles, clothing or the resale of music or sports equipment. In fact, Anderson said every tenant must be either a destination or something very special.

Local business owners pitch their products and services for a spot in the new DeSoto Incubator project.

Total Community Rehab

In addition, Anderson said there will be RV type trailers in the parking lot that will accommodate businesses. As well as 20 loft style apartment units to the east of the property.

The total cost of the remodel, the new parking lot, the face lift and the additional needs is about $800,000, not including the price of the shopping center.

The DeSoto Economic Development Corporation invested money up front for the start-up costs along with Anderson’s company in a roughly 50-50 split.

“Once the DEDC is paid back from the rental income, we will then split the profits 50-50,” he said. “When we are done, it will be a village environment instead of a consumer only driven property.”

The DeSoto Chamber of Commerce also has a role to play, helping find the proper tenants. It recently hosted an event to introduce the idea and the rehabbed space.

The Chamber of Commerce will also be a tenant for the time being according to President & CEO Laura Terhune. This timing coincides with the Chamber of Commerce vacating its current offices and the completion of the construction of its new offices.

This project is a first in DeSoto. Anderson said the business incubator should be up and running by August or September of this year.

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