Whether it's accurate or not, having a grocery close by is considered by many to be a pinnacle of civilization. Deep Ellum is about to leave the jungle with the opening of Deep Ellum Postal & Grocer, a new grocery-postal center opening next week at 3100 Main St., from young entrepreneur Brandon Castillo.
Castillo is founder of the successful Deep Ellum Outdoor Market, which just celebrated its third anniversary. That gives him some expertise in the art of marketing in the inner city. He's also an idealist who's plotted an urban grocery for a number of years.
"This is for people who live and work in the neighborhood," Castillo says. "One of the traits of our suburban culture is the fostering of entertainment districts, where you live in a subdivision and work and go out to restaurants somewhere else.
"I want walkable communities. I want to give people a reason to be on the street," says founder Brandon Castillo.
"Deep Ellum has suffered from that. It's been treated as a place to go at night; meanwhile there are people living here. It's also the reason I started Deep Ellum Outdoor Market. I want walkable communities. I want to give people a reason to be on the street."
The space was most recently a vintage shop with an old-school mailbox center. Castillo will continue to operate that, but he has expanded the space, with shelves and refrigerated cases holding basics and one-of-a-kind items.
"I've done surveys, and the neighbors mainly want milk, eggs, toilet paper, the normal grocery stuff," he says. "But I plan to have some trendy 'green' crunchy stuff – like a combination of a regular grocery and Whole Foods. We'll also have prepared foods, postage and office supplies."
Castillo is of Filipino descent, so he'll feature a selection of Filipino items, including foodstuffs from Zen Bistro, the Filipino-owned bakery and cafe in Deep Ellum (which closed last week). "There are quite a few Filipino nurses at Baylor, which is close by, so I plan to have Filipino fare and pastries," he says.
He anticipates that Deep Ellum P&G will be a work in progress, evolving to meet the needs of the neighbors.
"It's so easy to stereotype the neighborhood," he says. "There are people who still cling to old ideas of what Deep Ellum was. But there is a large community of people looking for this walkable type of living."
He doesn't expect to get rich off the store, but he hopes that he can build on the success he's seen with the market.
"I'm from Dallas. This is my hometown," he says. "I want to live in a cool city. I have a feeling that Dallas is going to become more urban. Not only myself but there are a lot of people in the city who want to increase its walkability and transportation options. I’m going all in on that trend."