Written by Natalie Snyder, Director, Tenant Representation
Deep Ellum’s recent resurgence has made it one of the hippest neighborhoods in Dallas. The community, which lies immediately east of downtown, has a unique culture and is home to a thriving nightlife scene, eclectic shops and restaurants, and a wide variety of art. So it’s no surprise that developers have moved in to plant stakes for new apartment and office projects, too.
Part of what makes Deep Ellum special is its commercial heritage, which took root well before its urban music and art scenes first emerged decades ago, and even before Dallas’ darker days of class and race segregation left its mark on the area. Going back over a hundred years, Deep Ellum was a bona fide center of commerce. It was home to the largest manufacturer of cotton-processing equipment in the United States (1888 to 1914). Even Henry Ford selected Deep Ellum as the site for one of his earliest Model T automobile plants in 1914. And on the eastern stretches of Deep Ellum there was another historically significant site: Texas Ice House.
Back in the day, the modern miracle of automated ice machines didn’t exist. So, whether it was needed for chilling cocktails at swanky Dallas hotels or for cooling down railcars for cross-country transit, ice came from giant frozen blocks, and those blocks came from places like Texas Ice House. (Interesting side note: Another Dallas ice provider of the time, Southland Ice Co., went on to become the global convenience store giant 7-Eleven Inc.)
Like many businesses in the rough-and-tumble early days of Dallas commerce, Texas Ice House had its ups and downs. Tough competition and the onset of refrigerated railcars led to the 1940 sale of the company to the Hinckley family, which renamed it Hinckley Cold Storage. The new management worked to leverage building to every extent possible, and discovered that providing cold storage to local companies was a sustainable niche. Hundreds of business owners went on to use the building for their needs, with a number of entrepreneurs jump-starting new endeavors. (Among them: the frozen yogurt chain TCBY, which eventually grew to more than 1,700 outlets in its heyday.)
In 1997, Texas Ice House returned to its original name. But before that happened, brothers Owen and Luke Wilson forever enshrined the name Hinckley Cold Storage in the annals of pop culture history with their debut film, Bottle Rocket. The cult favorite’s climactic scenes were filmed at the facility, and any Dallasite watching the film will easily recognize the views of downtown and Fair Park.
Today, space is tight among cold-storage facilities in Dallas-Fort Worth. Most things in North Texas seem to revolve around eating, and business is booming. Texas Ice House serves dozens of companies, including those that lease space within its cold-storage facility. Tenants range from local restaurants and cattle ranchers to budding food entrepreneurs and seasonal vendors for the Texas State Fair. Texas Ice House has even stored ice for the annual “ICE!” holiday show at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine.
The building is ideal for small distributors, specialty food manufacturers, and restaurants that need extra kitchen, refrigerator, and freezer space. The cost of developing cold-storage space is steep—about $250 per square foot. Renting cold storage space from large, third-party providers can be cost prohibitive as well. Texas Ice House offers a convenient, cost-effective alternative, whereby space can be rented for a year, a month, or even a weekend. The model is set up to let customers use what they need, when they need it.
Texas Ice House was built more than a century ago, in 1913. In a city that tends to bulldoze and build new, it’s nice to recognize one of the longstanding commercial operations out there that’s still serving the needs of the Dallas market. In fact, as the city continues to grow and densify, it may be a recurring theme in commercial real estate to discover that what’s old is new again.
A nine year real estate professional, Natalie Snyder specializes in the representation of local and national
clients in the acquisition, renegotiation and disposition of office space.