Looking for that unique gift to bring to a person who has everything? Need a new decorator’s touch in your home? Chances are, you’ve visited Bishop Street Market to fill that need. Featuring home furnishings and unique gifts, and celebrating a decade in the Bishop Arts District, Bishop Street Market has played a key role in making the District Oak Cliff’s weekend destination.
Owners and lifepartners Michael Harrity and Paul Kirkpatrick have witnessed many changes along the way. Opening in August 1996, Harrity and Kirkpatrick began by importing goods from Mexico. On that original shopping trip, the owners ran into not a few border troubles, but sales were good enough to overcome that rocky beginning. Harrity recalls, “Our money was so short, we had not nearly as much inventory as we knew we would need to open, so over the Fourth of July week, we took our last $2000, rented a trailer, hooked it up to our aging SUV, and headed to interior Mexico. . . It was an interesting trip to say the least.”
And while the shop has since drawn a loyal customer base devoted to the ever-changing inventory, Harrity explains that Bishop Arts was not always what it appears today. “In 1996, the Bishop Arts District was a very different place,” he says. “Tillman’s Corner was just a couple years old, Vitto’s was just getting started, there was a struggling coffee shop where the Ice Cream Parlor is now, and O’lines and the Bishop Grill were already fixtures. That was pretty much it for the area.” Active in the development of Bishop Arts, Harrity, Kirkpatrick, and a few neighbors started the holiday street fair, Jingle Bells on Bishop. Such community involvement has helped Bishop Arts become the go-to spot for weekenders in Oak Cliff.
Local artists have always been a large part of Bishop Street Market, like the area more generally. Constantly displaying Oak Cliff artist’s wares, the Market has supported the arts since its inception. Harrity explains simply, “We love art.” The store’s commitment to art comes naturally, he says: “Over the years, we have featured more local artists than I could possibly list here, but at any given time we carry products from five to 15 different artists that mix in with our other goods giving our store a one-of-a-kind look and feel.”
That unique atmosphere keeps patrons coming back. Among their loyal customers, the owners explain, some return several times a month. Keeping inventory fresh and new proves to be one of Harrity’s favorite challenges of running the Market. The store, like Bishop Arts more generally, provides a welcome relief from the cookie-cutter shopping available elsewhere. “More people discover this area every week,” Harrity states, “and we are constantly told by them that this area reminds them of everything from their old home town Main Street to a funky area they used to go to in New York City! The only thing it does not remind them of,” he admits, “is the rest of generic-style Dallas. . . and we are just fine with that.”