Getting ahead of the LGBT boom in Carrollton

Posted on 23 Oct 2009 at 10:54am
By David Taffet | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Texas Pride Realty, Tea Thyme & Tisane add to suburb’s downtown gay commercial presence

TIME FOR TEA AND REAL ESTATE | Gay real estate agent Bob McCrainie, above, can see the new DART Rail station through the window of his new Texas Pride Realty office in downtown Carrollton. Charles Bowen, below, owner of Tea Thyme & Tisane, says he loves the cozy atmosphere in the northern suburb’s old downtown area. (DAVID TAFFET/Dallas Voice)

Bob McCrainie suggests that gays and lesbians looking for somewhere to live and work look north — to Carrollton.

McCrainie and his partner have lived in Carrollton with their children for years. Now he’s opened a real estate agency in Old Downtown Carrollton.

Two other gay-owned businesses have also found a home in this area that will be connected to Oak Lawn and downtown Dallas by rail by the end of next year.

Tea Thyme & Tisane is a teashop and cafe on the Carrollton town square, and Fiore Floral Designs is nearby, across from City Hall. Several antique stores on the historic town square are another signal that the LGBT community is upgrading and gentrifying the neighborhood.

McCrainie opened Texas Pride Realty last month, just off the square, to serve Dallas, Denton and Collin counties. Two agents joined him his first month and McCrainie expects to have another within the next few weeks.

He sees the office growing to about 20. In just six weeks that the company has been open, they have had four closings.

“I’ve always wanted my own business,” McCrainie said, and despite the economy, he felt this was the right time and place to open that business.

He noted that next year, when the Green Line extension opens, there will be three stops in Carrollton. New passenger train service from the Green Line terminus to Denton is expected in five years. To prepare for that, the city has hired a planner to direct the transit-oriented development expected to sprout up near each station.

McCrainie envisions the new development being based on Uptown’s West Village model, although “maybe a little more relaxed.”

The development encompassing the old town square, he said, would be more organic, rejuvenating and recycling older properties while adding new. He said Tea Thyme is located in a building that was Carrollton’s original general store and post office that dates from the 1800s.

“I would like to see the Plaza Theater revitalized with live community arts. More restaurants. A bookstore to make this a comfortable place to be,” he said.

But West Village-type developments, he said, are just why he opened his office when and where he did. That kind of project doesn’t attract “the sort of families they’re used to dealing with” in Carrollton and he expects the city’s already considerable LGBT population to grow even more.

Before opening his new company, McCrainie — who has had his broker’s license for four years — specialized in LGBT relocation north of LBJ Freeway. He has lived in Carrollton for 11 years and, before that, in Dallas just a block from the Carrollton border.

As a resident of Carrollton, he’s been active in city government and currently serves as chair of the property standards board.

And although he calls his company Texas Pride Realty, McCrainie said he has heard nothing negative about the name. He pointed to his logo that uses the colors of the Texas flag, not the Pride flag, and said he figures most people will just say, “Oh, he loves Texas!”

For Tea Thyme & Tisane owner Charles Bowen, it was the feel of the area as much as the promise of future development that drew him to Old Downtown Carrollton.

He said, “I really enjoy the feel of it here — cozy and eclectic. The owners of the building were tea lovers and they loved my concept.”

Bowen’s shop opened this summer and serves brunch, lunch and dinner six days a week.

While business has been building, he said August and September are often difficult months for restaurants. This month he has seen a steady increase.

But even on slower days, he said he reminds himself why he opened his new business: “I quit accounting because I was miserable.”

Business has built enough that he added a waiter this month.

Off the back dining room is a cozy Japanese tearoom. Mats, pillows and tables on short legs with paper screens separating areas for quiet and privacy create a comfortable atmosphere where Bowen said customers enjoy spending time reading and relaxing.

For the Christmas sales season, Bowen has turned one room into tea-related retailing. Colorful boxes and tins of teas from around the world, an array of ceramic teapots and cups and canisters of herbs give the shop a wonderfully fresh aroma.

They are all “good healthy products for people to pick up and enjoy or for the chef to come pick out as he needs,” Bowen said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 23, 2009.

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