An Innovative Incubator
In 2017 then DeSoto Mayor Curtistene McCowan had an idea to bring something new to the community. After all, something had to replace the old Ace Hardware store that had gone out of business at 345 E. Belt Line Rd.
So, she approached Monte Anderson, owner of the space, with the idea of setting up an incubator to promote small businesses.
“The space had been abandoned and had been vacant for some time. This type of incubator is innovative and deemed the best use of the space,” said Terry Toomey, Grow DeSoto Marketplace Onsite Consultant. “The other option for the space was a dollar store regional sales operation. DeSoto already had multiple dollar stores and it was thought that this was not going to help the downtown economy.”
So, Grow DeSoto Marketplace was born. Now, the 26,000-square-foot space has since been repurposed and now houses a variety of restaurants, retail spaces, and offices for small business owners.
And though McCowan passed away in October of 2020, she was no doubt of what she led the charge in creating.
Catering To Start-Ups In BSW Region
Currently, 80% of the space within the facility has been leased to a variety of microbusinesses ranging from restaurants to a full service fitness/rehabilitation center. This public-private partnership is the first of its kind and uniquely caters to start-ups in the Best Southwest Region of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan area.
“This incubator model is different than other models in that each ‘store’ owner signs a one-year lease. They operate their stores the same way as a regular retailer. They have set hours,” Toomey noted.
“The advantage of this program is that the city provides a business professional to act as mentor to all of these small businesses. Through mentoring, the small business owner receives support and the mentor can identify additional mentors to be recruited as needs are identified.”
There is space for up to 40 businesses. Toomey said the marketplace is usually at 80-plus percent capacity. Each store owner is interviewed and must be approved to participate in the program. Each year on the anniversary of their lease, the business is evaluated for continued participation in the program.
Healthy Dining Options Including Vegan Choices
One thing that separates Grow DeSoto Marketplace is its many healthy dining options, including many vegan choices.
“The restaurants have found a real niche in the DeSoto area by providing vegan and healthy food choices. We strive to provide diversity in the offerings here at GDMP,” Toomey said. “We limit the number of direct competitors to try to give each business a chance to be successful. We encourage businesses to come in and make a presentation.”
Visitors can even get a vegan snow cone at GDMP. Other options include vegan wings, vegan cupcakes, vegan tacos, vegan alfredo pasta and even a vegan cheeseburger.
Of course, there also plenty of non-vegan options, such as good ol’ Texas barbecue.
“Having so many vegan options in one spot is great because there is a lot of traffic coming down i35 in travel each day. With Dallas becoming one of the top vegan restaurant hubs in the country, we know there is a huge market,” said Roxanne Saldana, one of the tenants.
“Getting the word out can help these small businesses survive as people put the Grow Desoto Marketplace on their radars and make it a point to stop and support.
“Going to the market is an option for anyone that loves fab food from non-chain, independently owned eateries.”
Grow DeSoto Marketplace Has Inspired Others
Toomey said GDMP has inspired other incubators with some similarities, but there’s only one original.
“We have a sister company in Milwaukee. They liked our model and came here for training and brainstorming on how to build their project,” Toomey said. “We provided them the handbook for tenants and helped them explore how their market was different and how they could make adjustments to fit their audience.
“We provide an opportunity for companies to get started at the lowest entry point possible. When the small business owner signs a lease, we include electricity, AC, and WIFI. They do not have to worry about upkeep of the facility. They are responsible for decorating, equipment and inventory. They are also responsible for their own marketing.”
Saldana added that GDMP is also a great place for families.
“The food in this area is over-the-top and the vibe is chill and relaxed. There are outdoor picnic tables to sit and eat your vegan food finds, or you can sit inside the market in one of the two dining areas,” she said. “Kids enjoy coming to get treats and sitting under the umbrellas at the tables.”
To learn more about Grow DeSoto Marketplace, visit https://www.growdesoto.org/.