The story of Marketplace Austin began more than five years ago.
Not many people thought it would work, there were many reasons it
would not. There have been ups, downs, changes, and a huge learning
experience for everyone. And just like many new businesses, it changed,
adapted, and evolved as it grew. It has now become in a relatively
short time, a landmark destination point in the newly revitalized
North Austin neighborhood of North Lamar.
Everyone remembers Austin’s first Sam’s Club. In the
early 1980’s, it opened on 13 acres on North Lamar Boulevard.
It stayed for almost 10 years, until it moved to a bigger location
on Research Blvd. It stood empty for a few years, another tenant
started to move in, abandoned the project, and all work stopped
for almost 5 years.
In 2001, just after the events of September 11, the abandoned building
caught the eye of Andrew Perkel, an Austin resident who remembered
a business some friends of his had operated many years ago in another
state. He thought the idea could work in Austin.
Faced with a national tragedy and a struggling local economy,
the time was right to pump some energy into a new idea that would
recycle abandoned property while giving a needed opportunity for
the energy of Austin’s most energetic citizens.
So after gathering some financing, Mr. Perkel and his partner
Bill Talley, made an offer to the landlord. To the surprise of both
men, the offer was accepted. Very quickly, the project was organized,
and Marketplace Austin opened its doors in October 2002.
It was always planned as a weekend neighborhood shopping center.
It fills the gap between the standard indoor mall, where high rents
are beyond the reach of new entrepreneurs, and the outdoor flea
market, where rent is cheap, but the weather, dust, and primitive
conditions make daily business very difficult.
Once the building was secured, the new business extended an invitation
to the small but dedicated community of small business people who
were looking for a new place to run a business. Many people applied,
and most of them signed a lease and opened.
Most of the original 40 tenants who opened shop that first year
are still working in the building. Many more have come and gone,
with the strongest, best businesses thriving and growing to fill
the entire available space.
Over the years, the layout has changed, we have had several different
events, and tenants have come and gone. But that is the point. Life
is evolving all the time, and businesses change. Rather than fight
it, the Marketplace makes it easier.
Now holding almost 90 individual businesses, the 40,000 square feet
of retail area comes alive on Saturday and Sunday. Families come
after church, shoppers find bargains in an environment of security
and familiarity. The original concept has evolved into a duplication
of the Old World Marketplace, where merchants from all walks of
life showcase their products.
Most of our tenants work during the week, and the business is
a hobby or a way to make some extra cash. Most work with their families
in the booth, adding to the family atmosphere. Many of the most
successful have developed a thriving business requiring a more time
or space than the Marketplace can offer. They have expanded to another
location in the city, where they are open during the week.
A dozen businesses, including video rental, tattoo shop, barber,
western wear, party supplies, automobile installation shops all
have new locations throughout the city. In this economy, where the
small business is the backbone of the City, Marketplace Austin is
proud to be seen as an incubator for those who know how to take
advantage of all we offer under our roof.
New customers are welcome, there is no admission charge, and everyone
feels safe and secure. As we grow, it can only get better. We can’t
wait to see what happens next.