Chapel Hill students are going to have a new thrill to come back to next semester — Blue Dogwood Public Market is opening at at 306 W. Franklin St. late spring or early summer with 12 permanent food vendors dishing out a diversity of deliciousness from the indoor market space. The name Blue Dogwood gives a nod to the local and regional focus of the market, linking North Carolina’s state flower to the dominance of Tar Heel blue in the college town.
Owned by a small team of small business partners, “Blue Dogwood focuses on smaller spaces so that small businesses and startups can afford to operate and grow their business,” said market partner Sarah Boak. Other partners are Jeff Boak, Kelly Taylor, and Josh Gurlitz, the architect credited for the design of the overall market and individual vendor stalls.
Chef Kelly Taylor of gluten-free bakery Pizzelle Bakery dreamed up the concept when she and a few food contacts were hunting for a reasonably sized, affordable space for retail three years ago.
“I have been fortunate enough to have lived by some fantastic public markets around the country and abroad,” Taylor said, “So when I saw the space where Blue Dogwood is currently opening, I thought immediately of a public market.”
She will serve up her Italian and Southern style menu when the market opens, with sweet and savory items like focaccia bread, fragrant and moist citrus olive oil cake, a decadent chocolate pecan creation called caprese cake, and flat and round pizzelle cookies to keep up with her company’s namesake.
As a bonus, Taylor said, “Our market has an open kitchen and open stalls so customers can see how we make our food. And of course, we hope customers come talk with us at our stalls and we get to meet some great people.”
Locals will be able to take cooking classes, plus browse built-in pop-up spaces for small businesses, or for more established vendors trying new concepts.
But most tempting is the chance to try some innovative offerings, with this current list of vendors joining Pizzelle thus far:
- Family-owned Chocolatay Confections, known for its handmade sweets crafted with all-natural ingredients. Tip: Chief Chocolate Officer Danielle White steers newcomers toward the peppermint patties, the sweet/salty/spicy/crunchy sunflower crunch cup and the newly released caramel bonbon bar.
- Whole-animal butcher shop Left Bank Butchery, featuring locally and sustainably raised beef and pork, plus charcuterie, sausage and bacon. (Homemade cheese board, anyone?)
- Latin-American-inspired Soul Cocina, serving up plant-based items like tamales, and sweet potato and plantain empanadas.
- Vegan soul food establishment Vegan Flava, featuring both raw and living ingredients. The chef and owner at the Durham-based café, Yah-i Ausar is passionate about his popular dishes like walnut tacos served in a seaweed, collard, lettuce or corn tortilla wrap (for a raw approach), and “fish” cakes made from jackfruit and chickpeas for cooked cravings.
- Recently added Rumi Persian Café, which will provide an array of Persian dishes.
- The Bar at Blue Dogwood, where owner Jeff Boak will serve wine and local and regional beers and ciders intended to complement the food in the venue.
Hungry yet? A key to this overall concept is smaller portion sizes so customers can sample different vendors, said Sarah Boak.
“We want it to be easy for different members of the same family or group to go to different vendors, depending on what they feel like eating, eating habits, or allergies,” she said. “We want customers to form relationships and sit down and talk with the chef owners, who usually run and cook in their own stalls.”
And the partners want the vendors to flourish in a stall that fits their budget and brand while working in a community that can share costs and utilities. (Hint hint: The market is still seeking additional vendors, particularly those with unique food offerings for Chapel Hill.)
To top it all off, phase two of the market will commence six months after the initial opening, adding a sipping spot. An outdoor beer garden will liven up the renovated back parking lot, dappled with lights and plants, and pouring a rotation of draft beers and ciders sourced from local North Carolina breweries. Drink it in, Chapel Hill.