There are more than enough bars in Deep Ellum where visitors can belly up with a pint of beer or glass of vino, but if you want to grab a six-pack to enjoy at home, choices are slim -- like, fill a growler at BrainDead Brewing or buy some Budweiser at 7-Eleven slim.
Local business owner Brandon Castillo hopes to change that. Castillo purchased Deep Ellum Postal and Grocer in 2013 as he saw the neighborhood urbanizing and attracting more residents. His goal: To provide a place where locals could buy groceries without getting in a car. That, however, proved more difficult than he expected. Now he's shifting his focus to beer and wine in hopes of keeping Deep Ellum Postal and Grocer afloat.
Opened more than 15 years ago, Deep Ellum Postal and Grocer is a hybrid convenience store and mail center with personal boxes and shipping services.
"The mail business has really propped this thing up and allowed me to make mistakes," Castillo says of times he ordered too much inventory or the wrong products.
"Deep Ellum is changing, the cost of doing business is going up and for this business to stay at the corner of Main and Hall, we need to change the way we're doing things."
And to get started, Castillo is asking his neighbors for help. He recently launched an IndieGoGo campaign called "Will Walk for Beer" to raise $15,285 to help cover the costs of licensing, inventory, security and hardware that a beer and wine program would require. Castillo says he would start by offering select local craft beers, such as Deep Ellum Brewing Co., Four Corners Brewing Co. and Revolver Brewing, alongside a handful of affordable wines. He'll largely rely on his regulars to provide recommendations, as well.
Castillo has not applied for his permit yet, but anticipates selling alcohol about two or three months after he does so.
Deep Ellum Postal and Grocer sells predominantly nonperishable items such as bags of chips, granola bars, snacks and drinks, alongside household necessities like toilet paper and toothpaste. Castillo hoped to replicate this bodega-style concept in other neighborhoods, as parts of Dallas became denser like boroughs in New York City, he said in 2013. (Zip code 75226, which includes Deep Ellum, is home to roughly 3,000-4,000 residents, according to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate.) But Dallas car culture has been a tough adversary, Castillo says; he's already scaled back his shop’s hours because of a lack of foot traffic.
Castillo’s isn’t the only small business facing this issue. Green Grocer on Lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas opened with similar intentions, but couldn’t sustain profitability. In January, the shop relinquished selling groceries, instead focusing on its smoothie, juice and coffee bar.
Changing people's habits is the key to success, Castillo says, and walkability has long been a hot button topic in Dallas. Earlier this year, the Dallas City Council voted in favor of an $800,000 project known as the Complete Street Design Manual, which aims to "build streets that are safe and comfortable for everyone: young or old, wheelchair or walker users, motorists, bicyclists, bus, and train riders alike," according to the website.
Deep Ellum Postal and Grocer's crowd-funding campaign runs until May 19. And if Castillo can’t secure the necessary funds?
“That’s a pretty difficult question,” he says.
“Given the competitive environment in Deep Ellum, it’s going to be hard for us to stick around without better answering the needs of our neighbors.”
To support the "Will Walk for Beer" campaign, visit the IndieGoGo page.