Is it possible to transform a corporate big-box dump into entrepreneurial Austin cool? Indeed. In 2002, Andrew Perkel, a 12-year veteran of the Austin Police Department, and friend Bill Talley teamed up to transform the old and vacant Sam's Club on North Lamar into Marketplace Austin, a modern "flea market," with the goal of removing as many barriers as possible for folks who dream of starting their own businesses. Perkel and Talley rent space at affordable rates, eliminating hefty start-up costs, and strive for an eclectic balance of tenants – pulling in an assortment of potential customers whom they might otherwise struggle to reach. In under two years, Marketplace Austin has gone from an empty 100,000-square-foot shell to a vibrant retail center that is currently home to 100 merchants – a majority of which are minority- or women-led ventures. With Marketplace Austin, Perkel and Talley have modeled the Austin dream: harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit and offering it a place to flourish, while reinventing and invigorating Austin's urban core.
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