By Alicia Stemper
The Blue Dogwood Public Market in Chapel Hill originated with Kelly Taylor’s desire to open Pizzelle, the first gluten-free retail bakery in the Triangle. She wanted a small footprint. “Most people don’t realize the costs involved in opening up a food business. It is really prohibitive.” She approached Jeff Boak, owner of the building nestled between Franklin and Rosemary Streets. With two other partners, they began crafting the current business model. It took almost three years to open the market, which is emphatically NOT a food court. As Taylor explains, “a food court tends to be filled with franchises and subpar food…no one goes to a food court on purpose. It’s because you are shopping at the mall and that’s what’s there.”
Blue Dogwood is different, even from other food halls, because of its relentless focus on local. “We are really trying to keep this a community market, meaning your neighbors are the ones who own these businesses…when you support this business, you support your neighbors.” Vendors have flexible stalls customized to their own needs and branding. They share common spaces and equipment costs. The market has a bar, space for twelve vendors, a covered patio, and a commercial kitchen available for rent by vendors or members of the public. The market also has two parking lots with overflow municipal parking available nearby.
In addition to Taylor’s bakery, patrons will find:
Sol Cucina, where Silvana Rangel-Duque serves Latin American inspired plant-based foods like tamales, arepas, and tacos;
Leftbank Butchery, a whole animal shop focusing on locally sourced, sustainably raised meats;
Rumi Persian Café, owned by Mehti Haghshenas, who calls the market “a very unique situation…… Whatever I make at my home for my kids I make it here for my customers;”
Chocolatay Confections opened by Danielle and Matthew White. They cultivated a passion for making candy after they discovered their son’s severe peanut allergy (Protip – try the coconut bliss bar);
Vegan Flava, a husband and wife team with a loyal local following from earlier locations. They serve plant-based, soy, and gluten-free food;
Fat Radish Farm, offering organic produce, eggs, and a grab-and-go section, and
The Bar at Blue Dogwood proudly serving North Carolina ciders and beers.
According to Taylor, “Art is about expressing something – an idea of who you are and what you would want to see in fruition.” She believes “Chefs do the same thing.” Before a chef is a culinary artist, he or she must start with the basics. Eventually, one can take that skill set and “…create exactly what it is that you want. You can create the flavors, you can create the profile, the texture. You can create how it looks on the plate, you can create the atmosphere that your customer is eating in. Every little piece of it matters…every single thing you are in charge of and you are creating out of nothing.”
Shop local! Grab friends and go on purpose to support the food artisans at Blue Dogwood Public Market. Tell them Vitamin O sent you.