Urban Orchard Market, Downtown Dallas' Only Grocer Folds After Less Than a Year

Categories: Biz, Development

UrbanOrchard.jpg
When Urban Orchard Market opened to moderate fanfare last October, there was hope that maybe, finally, Downtown Dallas was grown up enough to support a grocery store.

It's not. Ten months after opening, the jaunty "Now Open" banner still hanging above the door, the market has quietly closed. A downtown resident who identified himself as Dennis arrived at the storefront off Jackson Street on Thursday morning to find the doors gated and locked. He had planned to pick up a loaf of bread.

"Now," he declared with mild regret, "I have to buy CVS bread."

Dennis wasn't particularly surprised the grocer had folded. His own impression was that the space was too big for its sparse customer base, always with half-empty shelves and produce wilted from languishing too long on the shelf.

Nor should he have been. The writing has been scrawled pretty clearly across the walls of the Interurban Building at 1500 Jackson St. from day one. Urban Orchard moved into the space occupied for several years by Urban Market, which closed despite generous city subsidies. Though the new store was tied to a liquor store and cafe and was more heavily focused on organic and vegetarian goods, the basic economics were about the same.

The owners, moreover, had little experience running a business. Its three principals, Umair Hameed, Loc Tran and John McIntosh, were 27 and fresh out of college. McIntosh, according to his LinkedIn profile finished his fitness studies degree at UNT in 2013. (McIntosh is the one who invited our Lauren Smart to the store's grand opening with the promise that "there will be so much liquor delivered here it will be crazy.") His current job title is "Renaissance Man."

Councilman Philip Kingston, whose district includes the Urban Orchard site, says he's not sure whether the store was doomed by inexperience or because the market's simply not there yet. The Central Business District has a population of about 8,500, right at the cusp of the range he's been told by commercial real estate types is necessary to support a grocery. The test, he thinks, will come with the opening of a specialty store as part of the Statler Hilton redo.

Even if that doesn't pan out, there will probably be other attempts. "Every development plan for downtown that I've seen for the past year includes a grocery."

David Livingston, a Wisconsin-based grocery-store consultant, isn't sure Dallas is quite there yet.

"You've gotta get population," he says. "You've gotta get high-rise, dense population," which he defines as "probably about 10,000 people within half a mile of the site of the location."

That's for a scaled-down version of a supermarket, like the store HEB built in downtown San Antonio. Dallas' downtown population may be big enough to get some interest from Wal-mart for one of its smaller urban stores or to support a smaller niche market, albeit one that would have to get a very large chunk of its revenue from catering or a deli rather than groceries.

For Dennis, the guy turned back by Urban Orchard Market's locked doors, the discussion is moot. His son is 4 years old, and he's moving to Irving this weekend so he can go to a decent school.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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29 comments
RudeKarl
RudeKarl

I've lived downtown for over 10 years, and would love a normal grocery store down here.  At the moment, I take the train either to Cityplace or Mockingbird Station for Kroger.  First of all, the location of this place has always stunk, at least for me since I live at Elm and N. Ervay.  The selection at this place and the former place was sparse, and always about to expire.  I bought a gallon of ice cream at the last incarnation, and when I got home, I realized that half of it had evaporated while it sat on the store shelf - very bizarre.  I think a Walmart Neighborhood Store or small Kroger would do great down here with the residents.  We need a store that actually stocks normal items that get turned over fairly well. Unfortunately, we're probably SOL on either of these since it would just cannibalize sales from the store's other locations right up Central - but, I don't know the grocery business.

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

Why is Dallas pouring so much money into a neighborhood that was designed in the 20th century to be an office park? I mean, besides the fact that property owners are desperate to prop up real estate prices and no company will move their HQ into the abundance of B and C class buildings? Other than the hospitality industry, small businesses will continue to sputter. Downtown was not designed to be a residential neighborhood, and it will take generations to unwind the destructive real estate and transportation decisions made by Dallas' 20th century business "legends."

dominicide1
dominicide1

Okay, I live downtown and we were so excited to get a market downtown. No one supported it from day one. Why? The product selection did not hit any major notes with the downtown demographic. The product was geared toward the organic, vegan, hormone-free toilet paper crowd.  I have lived downtown for ten years and let's face it, I would never confuse downtown residents as urbane sophisticates. As lovely as they can be, the new arrivals are mostly suburbanites checking things out and seeking a downtown cache. No Doritos! Kelp! Eight dollar shredded cheese! To those that think we need more people downtown or the location is bad, what a lot of hooey. We need a simple place with daily essentials and maybe an isle of things like free range tomato soup.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

It is just as easy for any Dallas downtown resident to jump in a car, drive to much lower priced large grocers, and return, often almost right to your doorstep.  Small grocers in urban areas can only compete when other barriers exist.  Someone in NYC that fought for their current odd/even spot will not give it up for a 30 minutes grocery run.  Parking is so cheap and so close that it is really no different that living in a suburban tract.


We have intentionally made downtown Dallas residences that way.  It is only way they could compete.  You see the same thing on commercial side.  We have new landlords building huge parking garages 1 or 2 blocks from rail stations, never mind bus stops.  Again, they do it or lose their shirts competing with suburbs.


Simply looking at total population will overstate market for these downtown grocers.  Until Dallas Downtown acquires other barriers and residents agree to accept those barriers for greater prize, grocers will fail. 

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Doesn't a grocery store usually carry lots of stuff? Toothpaste and antifreeze and pet supplies and lots of different food, fresh, frozen, canned, and boxed?

Maybe a real grocery store would thrive, not some boutique radicchio emporium.

I'll bet a real store would be packed. All those downtown workers in addition to residents stopping in on the way home.


wcvemail
wcvemail

"Fitness studies" major with two frat bros as partners...odds were unfavorable regardless of population density.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Even though people living downtown can be virtually car-free, the love affair with the things goes on in Dallas.  It's just as easy to drive up to Kroger or Central Market as it is to walk a few blocks.  Furthermore, close proximity to restaurants means no cooking.  There's a food store on every block in Brooklyn, and they're thriving.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

The result of restricting access to improve "walkability".  It reduces the trade area to foot traffic only, forcing small businesses to close.

Now you get to walk to Wal-Mart.

Knock down I-345, and you'll lose some of the financial district due to restricted access.  This will free up more office hi-rises for Soviet style tenements because there will be less demand from the high-income earners in their thirties.  Why?  You lose your employer base.

Access created Downtown.  Reduce or eliminate the infrastructure put there to allow the economic base to exist, the supporting residential suffers.  The misery index rises.  Those who can, leave.

Hello decay.

Vndallas
Vndallas

So no one thinks the horrible, invisible location has anything to do with the two-time failure of this place

dominicide1
dominicide1

@RobertStinson Sir, none of this over analysis, yours or others or the cited consultant in the article, resonates and it sounds odd. There is a great group of folks that live downtown that would support a grocery store, period. People, stop over thinking this. Grocers: come on down!

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@Montemalone So true.  Busy people cook spaghetti... when they cook.  If they want an elegant Entrecôte à la Périgourdine, served with luscious baby courgettes in a beurre blanc sauce and a simply scrumptious Gratin Dauphinois, they'll go to a restaurant.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@Montemalone  Since only 4% use transit, you are saying an office worker walks to grocer, shops, brings food back and then drives home, probably passing any number of accessible and much cheaper grocers.  The cost/benefit equation does not work.

Guest
Guest

@holmantx Holman, come on. Think. 345 is for people going AROUND downtown. Tearing it down and replacing it with a smaller surface street that will be integrated into the downtown grid will IMPROVE access to the CBD.

Daniel
Daniel

@holmantx Yes, prioritizing automobile access is precisely what created downtown Dallas. 

c_k27
c_k27

Yeah I have to agree tht location is not great I work off Harwood and Bryan and it took me over a year of lunch time walks to discover it. However, the new 7-11 right off the bryan st dart station is always full of people.

behanvis
behanvis

@Vndallas I thought the exact same thing.  Every grocery attempt in the downtown area has been at the far edge of the business and residence district, meaning in some cases, no one even knows it exists.  And poor HL Green...I think it could have survived with a little help from friends...a decent all-around store back in the day.  Find a central business district location, scale down to some degree the size (not the content, but quantity of each thing) and make it visible...those few things would at least help something last.  ( I say this as both a life-time Dallas resident and someone about to move into the Interurban)

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@Vndallas

The aloof would say it adds to the charm.

Vacant storefronts . . . not so much.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@dominicide1 @RobertStinson " There is a great group of folks that live downtown that would support a grocery store, period."

Obviously, there isn't.

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

@RobertStinson Yes, there are lots of great folks downtown, but it belies the fact that many (most?) are renting and have no long-term investment in downtown. Also, the apt/housing selection is lean. 

I agree that only a chain will be able to build a grocery store - a small one. It would have to a well-selected wine/beer selection to offset the losses or flat revenue of food sales.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@dominicide1 @RobertStinson  They go upscale because they cannot stay without huge margins on regular food.  I bought regular food in the first iteration of the urban market.  It was always 15-20% more expensive compared to Albertson's or Kroger.  You rarely saw any sales.  When I go to a big grocer all I want are sales.  Huge pizzas at half price, other stuff from wine to vegetables at discounts in narrow windows. Smart shoppers migrate from sale to sale, religiously monitoring unit price.  The alternate thought is putting something unusual on shelves will allow a higher margin.


What people really want, but won't be direct about it, is someone like Kroger or Whole Foods to put a store there, but charge same prices as the store in Frisco with 200,000 sq feet and a parking lot big enough for Cowboys Stadium.  Not going to happen in 21st Century.  No store subsidizes any other store.  A store charges what it needs to survive as if it was only store in system.  It is more expensive to operate in the city. 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @Montemalone and I think that right there hits on the nail that closed the coffin on the Urban.  Dallas downtowners don't want to cook and entertain at home, they want to see and be seen.  They go out to eat or they nuke something if they're staying in.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@Guest @holmantx No, it won't.  Because all those people who will still need to get to the other side of downtown will be gridlocked in downtown instead.  Walkability will suffer, as they widen the streets to accomodate the thru traffic.  Bike lanes will vanish, Jimmy Johns delivery cyclists will don Mad Max attire and mow down unsuspecting cat-ladies.

It is a peculiar fallacy to believe that by tearing down 345, all that through traffic is going to just vanish.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@Daniel More precisely, prioritizing access to allow a 130,000 commuter workforce to get in and out of downtown - the most densely populated area in the metropolitan area during the week.

Materially reduce the access, lose the workforce.

And that includes Belo.

For God's sake, we already lost the Dallas Observer!

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@c_k27 That might also be due to the fact that 7-11 stocks things people actually need and want, not niche market items that only a small percentage of people shop for.

dominicide1
dominicide1

@MikeWestEast Hey, what do you think of just a small general purpose grocery store. Nothing too fancy. Like about the size of the "restaurant," space at the Urban--that space, by the way is just gorgeous and it's sad that so many really uninspired folks have toyed with it. People will go to Central Market for that cheese or that damn good butter, we will still go to Kroger and others for a huge sack of something, but we don't like finding ourselves out of decent mustard and having to drive or take the train after a few glasses of wine while preparing dinner. Catching hell from the missus for forgetting it. Okay, I am busted, but you know what I mean. I took the train by the way. 

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@dominicide1 @MikeWestEast  Like a bodega?  Those places in NYC are getting killed by 7-11's and CVS.  Everyone except Mike Bloomberg has gotten very price conscious.  If it is really quick need, you g.

o to CVS or 7-11, still cheaper than small general store.  Otherwise increasingly people figure out way to get to big grocers.  Yes big grocers have figured out ways to get smaller.  But market is way bigger than our lousy 10,000 - 20,000


Bodegas that survived went upscale, doing exactly what our Interurban Market tried.  They in Dallas simply did not have the right demand. 


That is the beauty of capitalism.  While people wish things were different, capitalism drags everyone down to earth to confront dollar and cents reality.

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