A Work(room) in progress

Gay-owned shop anchors W. Dallas development boom as area awaits opening of Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

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URBAN PIONEERS  | Nick Troilo, left, said the store wouldn’t have been possible without his partner, Jim Wright. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

When Nick Troilo opened The Workroom on Singleton Boulevard in West Dallas, he did what many gay people have done before him: He became an urban pioneer opening a business in an area most others avoided.

Although a designer by trade, Troilo’s interest in the neighborhood began when he worked a few blocks away at Jack’s Backyard.

Although business had started to flourish along Fort Worth Avenue, Singleton Boulevard was still an example of some of the city’s worst urban blight — lined with junkyards, auto repair shops and nondescript buildings with iron bars on the windows.

“The idea for the store came out of the recession,” Troilo said.

“I was working at home not meeting clients and was waiting tables at Jack’s.”

While working at Jack’s, Troilo met a customer who was buying up property in the area. Speculators have been preparing for the boom that is expected after the March 2 opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, which will replace the Continental Street viaduct and link Singleton Boulevard to Woodall Rodgers Freeway and downtown.

Troilo’s future landlord showed him a variety of properties, and Troilo selected an old warehouse to lease, three blocks from the bridge adjoined by plenty of parking. When he first opened in October, Troilo was definitely a pioneer, but plans for other businesses in the area have since progressed.

Standing outside of his store recently, Troilo pointed to a number of bright, recently painted buildings surrounding his.

Behind Troilo’s store is an abandoned strip that will become a retail center. Across the street, a microbrewery is scheduled to open. Next to that is a planned “restaurant incubator” where companies will test-market new concepts in dining.

Troilo has been talking to developers about working with them on interior designs. He designed the interior of Veracruz in the Bishop Arts District, one of the most successful new urban neighborhoods also largely pioneered by gay entrepreneurs.

One reason Troilo chose this warehouse for his shop, he said, is because it had two garage doors — one in front where he created a patio to serve coffee and pastries, and one in back for deliveries.

“Coffee is free,” he said. He wants The Workroom to be a place people can come and shop but also a place to gather.

North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Vedda said, “Traditionally we have had the ability to find those diamonds in the rough and work those visions into a reality.”

And LGBT consumers have a history of seeking out and supporting those businesses.

Troilo describes the mix in his shop as “distinctive fresh florals, arts, crafts, interiors and antiques.”

He’s stocked the store with an eclectic variety of goods at various price points. The walls are currently filled with his own artwork, but exhibits by other artists are planned. In addition to Troilo’s work, the store features everything from carvings by an artist from Poland to custom metal work to a T-shirt commemorating the opening of the bridge.

“I wanted to have something so people could walk out of here for $5, to things in the thousands,” he said.

Troilo rented out a floral design station to Tommy Dodd, a florist who is moving his business from Southlake to the new West Dallas location where he plans to continue working with Saks Fifth Avenue and his private clientele as well as find new customers — possibly right across the street at the test restaurants the area will be incubating.

In addition to subletting the space for floral design, as well as his retail and design businesses, Troilo hopes groups will schedule special events at the shop.

“The space is available for lease for private parties,” he said.

He’s hosted West Dallas Chamber of Commerce meetings, has a wedding rehearsal dinner scheduled and is talking to the local GLAAD chapter and Black Tie Dinner about holding wine-tastings or receptions.

And he credits his partner, Jim Wright, with helping in every aspect of creating the store.

“He sacrificed to pull this together,” Troilo said of Wright.

Although the store has been open since October, Troilo said the official opening was in January. He expects business to take off once the bridge opens and traffic along Singleton Boulevard increases dramatically as the road once again becomes an alternative route to Oak Cliff that’s been cut off through much of the recent construction.

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Lesbian artist’s work part of bridge opening

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As part of the opening celebration for the Calatrava bridge to West Dallas, lesbian artist Jolene Decle will exhibit some of her paintings in a converted warehouse.

Decle, originally from the Caribbean, has lived in Dallas for 18 years. She has participated three times in Art Rage Us, an annual fundraiser for Resource Center Dallas, exhibited at Cathedral of Hope in a show sponsored by Hope 4 Peace and Justice and has donated work to Black Tie Dinner and Toast to Life.

“My paintings for the show will include some flowers, abstracts and watercolors, but the signature piece will be of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge,” she said.

The show will be held in a warehouse just over the bridge in West Dallas. Look for the first blue building on the right, with the Sheppard Fiery’s mural of a woman’s head and the word “OBEY” across it.

Caribbean Art Show, 331 Singleton Blvd. March 2 at 6 p.m.–10 p.m. March 3–4 at 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

— David Taffet

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BRIDGE-O-RAMA

The opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge will be celebrated March 2-4. For full information, go to MHHBridgeCelebration.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

District 14: Attorney Jim Rogers files to run but says he’ll withdraw if Hunt seeks re-election

Jim Rodgers

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Jim Rogers, a Dallas attorney and accountant, filed information on his campaign treasurer on Jan. 18 to begin his run for the Dallas City Council District 14, the seat now held by Angela Hunt. But at that evening’s Stonewall Democrats meeting, he said that if Hunt decides run for her council seat again rather than for mayor, he would withdraw.

Rogers said he only decided to get into the race two days earlier, after a meeting with friends.

“This isn’t a Jim Rogers decision,” he said. “It’s a neighborhood decision.”

One of those in the neighborhood who supports that decision is Neal Emmons, a Hunt appointee to the City Plan Commission.

Emmons cited Rogers’ years of experience working on neighborhood issues as his greatest strength, noting that Rogers has been active in Democratic politics in the city for years and has become a member of Stonewall Democrats.

Rogers has lived in Oak Lawn and East Dallas for 30 years and served on the Urban Rehabilitation Standards Board. He was one of the original Bryan Place homeowners.

When Bryan Place was built just outside of Downtown Dallas in the early 1980s, it was the first residential development built so close to the city center in decades and its residents were considered urban pioneers.

Rogers said developer Dave Fox told him, “Bryan Place wouldn’t have the atmosphere it has if it wasn’t for Jim Rogers.”

“We didn’t do what I wanted to do,” he said. “We found out what the neighborhood wanted to do.”

He said he went door to door to find out what his new neighbors thought would make this a better place to live. The neighborhood had no amenities and people wanted a swimming pool. They created a $300,000 budget that would include a clubhouse.

Developer Fox & Jacobs pledged $200,000 to the project if Rogers could raise $100,000 never believing they’d have to make good on their promise.

Rogers delivered his portion from money raised from the new homeowners. The developers pitched in their pledge and built the pool.

He said that story illustrates how he would approach his job on the City Council.

“I want to involve as many people from the district as possible,” he said.

He said he would listen and learn what issues are not being addressed. But he did have a three-point plan — smoother streets, safer neighborhoods and lower taxes.

While he followed and understood the budgeting problems that the council faced last year, Rogers said he wondered why Dallas has the highest tax rate of any major city in the state.

He said he wasn’t looking to slash services, “But more analysis needs to be done.”

He said he was driving near Northwest Highway and LBJ Freeway and he suddenly noticed a difference in the road.

“Then I realized I was in Garland,” he said. “Garland shouldn’t have smoother streets than we do.

Rogers promised to be an advocate for the LGBT community, just as Hunt has been. Although same-sex marriage is not an issue that faces a city council, he offered his opinion on it.

“Why not?” Rogers asked. “How’s it going to affect my marriage?”

He said he supports policies already in place in Dallas such as domestic partnership benefits for city employees and the nondiscrimination ordinance. On new issues that might come before the council, he said his door would be open for members of the community to come and educate him so he could support equality.

“I will always fight for the guy who is not being treated right,” he said.

He called the LGBT community “The most active political community on the face of the earth.”

“I want the support of that community,” he said. “It’s amazing how much work goes on there.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright