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Mae's MangoEXPAND
Mae's Mango
Yellow Green Farmers Market / Flickr

Hollywood's Yellow Green Farmers Market Is an Incubator for Culinary Dreams

On any given weekend, thousands of people, with dogs and children in tow, flock to the Yellow Green Farmers Market to shop for everything from local vegetables to craft beer to Turkish bathrobes.

The market, housed in a 100,000-square-foot refurbished metal warehouse in Hollywood, is a sprawling labyrinth of aisles and corridors that spills out into an outdoor area. The scene is like a tropical, modern version of a market from a Charles Dickens novel: At any given time, about 350 vendors call out their wares in the hopes of grabbing the attention of a potential customer. The scene is colorful and chaotic — a charming throwback to the time when you knew your local fishmonger by name. Yellow Green is so entertaining, it ranks sixth on TripAdvisor's list of things to do in Hollywood, ahead of Arts Park and Seminole Hard Rock Casino.

The market has also grown into an incubator for culinary entrepreneurs to test concepts and hone their business skills before opening brick-and-mortars. Each vendor begins by renting a bare-bones area in what amounts to an eight-foot-by-eight-foot metal cage. From those meager beginnings, and with a little ingenuity, people have created everything from micro-shops to full-fledged cafés serving multiple courses of food.

Yellow Green has helped launch several South Florida brands that have made it good. Atlas Meat Free Deli's Ryan Bauhaus started by making plant-based pastrami sandwiches at the market, and way before it opened in Wynwood, Pink Pie would sell out its tiny treats each weekend at Yellow Green. The key to success in the marketplace seems to be branding and knowing how to sell your wares.

When Paloma Machado-McGowan and her husband Michael McGowan debuted Pink Pie at the market in September 2016, they treated the little pie shop as if it were already an established commodity.

"When we decided to open Pink Pie, it was important for us to build the brand from the get-go," Paloma says. The couple, who recently opened a Pink Pie shop in Wynwood, started Pink Pie at Yellow Green Market because it was easier to manage and less expensive than a traditional storefront. "It's a completely different process. You rent the space and you just have to do cosmetic things that don't require a lot of plans. You can open the next day if you want." She compares that to launching the Wynwood location. "When opening a shop, you have to go through architectural and engineering plans. You have to worry about the city and grease traps and fire protection plans. That alone takes months. It's a completely different beast." Though they plan to continue to grow Pink Pie, they have no intention of moving their little stand from the market. "It's a great market, and we have a great customer base there. It was a great decision to start the concept there. We learned so much from it."

Lorri Roth serves about a dozen Turkish dishes at her stand, Moe's Place. Each week, she prepares baklava, pide, and hummus from scratch. Much of it is made onsite in an area that would make a dorm room kitchen seem large, or she borrows kitchen space from friends who are chefs. "It's not easy," Roth says. "Every week, I'm struggling to find a place to cook, but everything has to be made fresh." As people pass through the narrow aisle, she offers samples of eggplant salad and baba ganoush. This weekend has been fruitful, and she's out of most items. When a repeat customer arrives, she throws in a lamb shish kebab as a bonus. "I've got to keep my people happy." Roth, who moved from Turkey with her husband Moe Tan after the country's political unrest proved too volatile, works as a travel agent to supplement her weekend business. Her goal is to open her own restaurant. "I'm looking in Fort Lauderdale, but it's tough without money to invest." Her stand at the market is her way of keeping her culinary chops while making connections. So far, she's gotten catering gigs from the market and made some contacts with chefs.

Garden Diva
Garden Diva
Yellow Green Farmers Market / Flickr

Cherie Mione has turned her love for hummus into its own brand. A dental hygienist by trade, the curly-haired blonde began making hummus through necessity. "I just didn't like all the chemicals that were in the store-bought brands," Mione says. Three years ago, she began selling hummus at the market under her brand, Garden Diva. Though she still works in dentistry on the weekdays, she's at the market every Saturday and Sunday. "I basically have no days off." She believes it's important to personally be at the market to answer questions and peddle her wares. After all, hers isn't the only hummus available. "There's no exclusivity, so in my aisle, there are two, maybe three other places that sell hummus. I have to be vocal and I have to be the best." The work has paid off, and her product is now available at a handful of markets in South Florida. The opportunity, she says, came through contacts she met at Yellow Green.

Other vendors make the market work by partnering with local brands. Mae Miller started at Yellow Green by selling homemade mango chutney. She's since doubled her space after expanding into homebrewing supplies, craft beer, and hot sauce. She capitalizes on the fact that the market allows guests to sip while shopping. Because the market isn't air-conditioned, selling ice-cold beer has become a lucrative business. "When we started here in December 2012, we sold about eight kinds of beer. Now we're up to 50 different craft brews," she says. Miller, who likes to support locals, has added taps for the breweries that don't yet can their product, such as Broski Cider Works and Clearwater's Pair O' Dice.

Steven Morante has an obsession with finding the freshest fish for his ceviches and causas at his stand, El Pescador Seafood. The chef spends each weekend squeezing limes and placing potato purée into molds for his precise, custom-made dishes. Morante benefits from sharing space with a wine-and-beer bar at the market — it's a symbiotic relationship where his spicy food calls for a refreshing Biscayne Bay brew. Though his half-dozen or so wooden stools are usually filled, two days of selling fish doesn't pay all the bills. To supplement his income, he works catering gigs and drives for Uber until he can open his own restaurant.

Though most of the vendors at Yellow Green have ambitions beyond the market, some are content to grow their small business right there. Mari Pellecchia started cooking at her family's restaurants in Venezuela. She moved with her husband and two sons to South Florida in 2002 but found the economic logistics of launching an eatery in the United States difficult. Instead, she opened Mari's Kitchen at the market. Each weekend, the entire family, including her now-grown sons Giancarlo and Luigi and her husband Tony sell stuffed shells, lasagna, eggplant cured in fine olive oil, freshly baked focaccia, and smoked cheeses. Since opening last year, the business has done well, and the family has expanded the operation to include a small seating area and additional prepared foods. But for the Pellecchias, success is more about staying together than making money. Says Giancarlo: "This is our own family-owned business."

Yellow Green Market. 1940 N. 30th Rd., Hollywood; 954-513-3990; ygfarmersmarket.com.

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