100 Dallas Creatives: No. 98 Deep Ellum's Enterpriser Brandon Castillo
Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the whos and whys.
"You can't have too many businesses," says Brandon Castillo.
Dallas is certainly lucky he thinks so. Castillo is the creator of the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market (DEOM), the Deep Ellum Food Truck Rally, FilipinoFest, TacoFest and more. I think it's pretty safe to say DEOM was one of the best things to happen to Dallas in recent years, thanks to the domino effect it has had on the creation of similar events throughout the city. Like Castillo says, "The more markets there are in Dallas, the better for the city."
But Castillo is a maker, which means he didn't stop after a few successes. Last year, he opened Deep Elllum Postal & Grocer, the only small grocery shop in the neighborhood, and he's preparing to launch his next venture (details in the interview below).
That inexhaustible desire to create and contribute is what makes Castillo a necessary entry on this list. "I've bought in 100 percent to the mythology that Dallas wasn't supposed to be here but was made by the resolve of fascinating, passionate people," he says.
Well congratulations, Castillo, in our book you've joined their ranks.
Give us a little background. Are you originally from Dallas?
I grew up in Dallas in the '90s, but after high school told myself I'd never live here again. After four years of college in Los Angeles and two years teaching English in Spain, I found myself right back where I started.
Where did the idea for the market come from and why Deep Ellum?
Everywhere in California and Europe there are outdoor markets. When I got back to Dallas, I wondered where they all were. Deep Ellum was perplexing because it is the most traditional walkable, pedestrian friendly neighborhood in the city, but there was no one on the streets.
What challenges did you have to overcome in launching the market?
There was a moratorium on markets in 2010 when I started this whole thing. They were tabling market permits due to the city's objective to monitor and regulate neighborhood farmers markets. Mine was more of an arts market, so I was able to appeal to city staff thanks to emails from some City Council members at the time. There'd always been arts markets before, but the Deep Ellum Market has always had two objectives: one, promote local businesses and artists, and two, promote a walkable environment.
So then came the Postal & Grocer?
Deep Ellum Postal & Grocer
Living in walkable neighborhoods in other cities taught me what Deep Ellum needed even before I started DEOM. The previous owner of the Deep Ellum Postal Center was one of my first vendors, and she intimated to me that she wanted to get out of the postal business and I told her I wanted to get into the grocery business, so we struck a deal. There wasn't much precedence for a postal and grocer, so I figured it might well be a good idea.
What inspires you? In other words, what do you do in your 'free time?'
Well, I just got married, and that changes your life. I'm lucky to have found a lady who understands me and supports me and my vision. And she will actually go biking around town with me in non-spandex clothes! My Dallas book collection has become almost unmanageable, as I've fallen behind on my reading list. My greatest pleasure is discovering hidden or forgotten gems of this city. After all, Dallas ain't gonna find you, you gotta find Dallas.
What's next for you? What do you think is next for Deep Ellum?
For me, I'm starting a new company. At the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market, I was trying to convince neighborhoods that they need to be throwing events and creating public space. With this new venture, we'll be convincing municipalities around DFW that they need to be throwing events and creating public spaces. We figure cities have larger marketing and economic development budgets than neighborhoods do.
As for Deep Ellum, we'll be facing the same gentrification issues that other neighborhoods in Dallas are currently facing. On the other hand, Deep Ellum has a major advantage over other communities like Henderson and Bishop Arts -- we have space to grow. Right now, we are seeing sharp increases in rent, as the neighborhood is gaining steam. The problem is that demand is increasing as supply is remaining stagnant. This makes for a major opportunity for growth in the neighborhood. My fear is that we're only going to have development after development of luxury high rise living, so hopefully the market will allow for affordable housing in the near future. Ultimately, Central Dallas needs to be able to compete with the Village for younger professionals as well as with Allen for starting a family. If we're able to build actual communities and neighborhoods, we can be more than just city full of a boom-and-bust entertainment districts.
What else do you think Dallas needs?
In my eyes, Dallas is pretty divided socially, economically and culturally. While this segregation is leftover from past times, we are really eager to make connections with other people and other neighborhoods in our city.
The puzzle that vexes me is why smaller, human scale mixed-use buildings exist all over the world, but if we want walkable communities, new places necessarily have to be massive complexes owned and developed by a single entity. What does the city have to deregulate/re-regulate in order to have a city block with as much diversity as I experienced in Madrid?