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Landlord dispute sends Dallas' Wild About Harry's custard shop packing

Landlord dispute sends Dallas' Wild About Harry's custard shop packing

Wild About Harry's custard
Custard on the move. Photo courtesy of Wild About Harry's

In an Instagram post read across Dallas, Wild About Harry's — the quirky little shop on Dallas' Knox Street that's been serving frozen custard and hot dogs for 22 years — shared bad news on April 23: That they'd be shutting down the shop in May.

"Due to a dispute with our landlord on Knox Street, Wild About Harry's has been given notice to vacate the Knox Street Store by May 15," the post said.

Their landlords are Bob and Diana Tabesh, who own the Planet Bardot clothing boutique and who purchased the entire building with seven storefronts in 2015.

Harry Coley founded Wild About Harry's in 1996 as a place to sell the frozen custard his mother had made in Oklahoma when he was young, along with hot dogs, chicken tenders, and onion rings.

The shop had an unfussy, slightly dingy atmosphere that made customers feel like they were going back in time.

It represented the little guy on a street that's evolved in the past 20 years into a collection of larger retailers, and embodied a nostalgic '50s-era innocence many still long for.

It also enjoyed a wide range of customers, from shoppers to Highland Park families to the likes of Troy Aikman, who stopped in on April 5.

Coley died in 2014 following a bout with cancer, but the store was taken over by his daughter Sydney Coley-Berglund. In 2015, she opened a second Harry's on the far edge of Deep Ellum.

Meanwhile, the Knox area has seen ongoing gentrification, with new businesses such as Kate Spade and Lululemon, along with a dramatic increase in the number of residential buildings, all of which have combined to worsen parking and traffic.

In 2016, Tadesh told WWD of their plans to expand Planet Bardot, including adding a second story to the building, as well as their intention to favor retailers such as cosmetics, sunglasses, candles, or shoes. Garrett Leight California Optical, a sunglasses store, opened in 2017.

According to Tadesh, Wild About Harry's had issues with the city of Dallas health department.

"For the last 22 years, yes, they've been operating out of this space, but they weren't up to code, and were operating a restaurant without a permit," Tadesh says. "When we signed a lease with them, it was for 'packaged ice cream.' They're not even allowed to make ice cream. And for the other food they're making, you're supposed to have a grease trap and a hood."

He gave them a nine-month extension to obtain a proper certificate of occupancy or find a new location, and they did neither.

"I have no dispute with them, I like Wild About Harry's, and they could stay another 20 years if they were able to get it together," he says.

Harry's former neighbor Knox Street Postal Center found new digs on Henderson Avenue, and Harry's hopes to do the same.

"We are actively looking for a new location in the Highland Park area," the Harry's post says. "Thank you to everyone for their loyalty and friendship to Harry and staff over the last 22 years, making Knox a great place to home. God bless and be cool."

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