By Renee Umsted|May 18th, 2022|All Feature Articles, All Magazine Articles, Lower Greenville, Special Story, Where to Shop, Woodrow Wilson High School|0 Comments
Two East Dallas natives who grew up going to the same neighborhood hangouts didn’t meet until after they graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School.
Chase Pridavka, who graduated in 2004, lived on Reiger Avenue. Victoria Syer, a 2009 graduate, lived just blocks away on Santa Fe Avenue. Victoria’s dad frequented a pub called The Londoner, which was owned by a man who coached Chase’s soccer team; the coach’s son also went to elementary school with Chase.
“We were always so close to each other but our paths never crossed,” Chase says.
He and Victoria finally met at Stan’s Blue Note, a popular place for Woodrow alumni, and realized they had known all the same people their whole lives. Eventually they married, and now have a daughter, who was born in early March.
When they decided to start their own business venture, decades of neighborhood connections convinced the Pridavkas to do something in East Dallas, for East Dallas residents.
Equally as significant was that each of them had soaked up a lifetime of knowledge and experience in the market world from their families.
Victoria’s parents moved to Dallas from London shortly before she was born. Her father sold antique and vintage items at markets there, and he brought his career as a vendor with him across the pond.
He and his sister started selling goods at Lone Star Bazaar.
“Then they got a shop off of Greenville Avenue, which is Val’s Cheesecakes now,” Victoria says. “And then they moved that to where the new Arboretum parking lot is; the parking garage, that used to be their shop.”
From an early age, Victoria — who’s now a teacher at Maple Lawn Elementary — accompanied her father on trips to garage and estate sales, and antique stores. When he started selling at markets, like at Fair Park, she and her cousin went along, sitting under the table playing video games while he ran the business.
Chase had similar experiences as a child. While growing up, he had a close relationship with his grandfather, who did silk screen printing on shirts. He would sell creations at markets and festivals and to sports teams, and Chase would go too.
When his grandfather was closer to retiring, he took up a family tradition of woodworking, and started making cutting boards. Chase, then in his mid-20s, helped sell them at markets.
An animal lover, Chase had a job as a veterinary technician. But it became emotionally difficult, especially the euthanizations.
“I really couldn’t handle it anymore,” he says. “I was looking for something else to do, and I really wanted to work and do something for myself.”
About five years ago, the Pridavkas were at an estate sale on Lakewood Boulevard with Victoria’s parents. They found a Sex Pistols shirt from the ’80s, a Grateful Dead shirt from the ’90s and a bunch of crazy hats — desirable items they knew people would buy.
“We were like, ‘This is amazing, this is so much fun and then, can we do this?” she says.
Around that same time, Chase started Cool Hand Vintage, relying on knowledge gleaned from years of experience with his grandfather, combined with an appreciation for vintage clothing that originated during his youth. While his mother and grandmother searched thrift stores for designer pieces, Chase hunted for clothes that would gain his mother’s approval but still reflected his style.
He remembers one time having to choose between an Alice in Chains T-shirt and a Pearl Jam one; he went with Pearl Jam.
Cool Hand Vintage became Chase’s full-time job, selling vintage clothing at markets throughout the metroplex, including in Oak Cliff and Deep Ellum. Victoria was a partner, but most of her time was occupied with teaching.
“A lot of the vendors we’ve met throughout this entire time, this five years doing it, a lot of them live in this neighborhood, in the Lower Greenville area,” Victoria says. “We always, too, were like, we want to do something for them as well, like a second opportunity.”
They saw how a few months of bad business affected some vendors and thought “Sunday funday” would be a great time to have a market. After bouncing the idea off of some of their vendor friends, they began working to establish their own market.
Greenville Avenue provided sufficient foot traffic and didn’t already have such a place. Then the question became which intersection was appropriate. They couldn’t block driveways or parking lots, and the neighboring businesses had to be on board. That’s how they landed on Oram Street.
Permits had to be acquired, which resulted in a lot of paperwork for each vendor.
“It was like jumping through hoops, bureaucratic hoops,” Chase says.
The Underground Market launched in January, and then the City showed up to let them know they needed to replace the barricades and put up “no parking” signs.
They fulfilled those requirements, and it’s been easier since then. Each week, the Pridavkas curate about 36 vendors, each selling something different. They want neighbors to be able to find everything from a plant to dog food to snacks to hats.
Soon, they plan to donate a portion of the booth fees to charities, starting with one that’s helping Ukrainians.
“We would like to do something different than any other market,” Chase says. “We try to do the most to contribute back to our vendors and back to the community, and not just take.”
They want to continue holding the market for as long as they can, and they’ve even thought about opening a permanent brick-and-mortar where vendors can have a place to sell inventory throughout the week.
The market has taught them to be more patient and understanding. Working with customers, vendors, residents, small business owners and City departments has improved their communication skills.
But their greatest takeaway from organizing The Underground Market is finding a deeper bond with the community.
“It’s just feeling love for everybody, all the vendors that love each other,” Victoria says. “We all have good relationships with everyone.”
The Underground Market is located at Oram Street and Greenville Avenue. It’s open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays.
About the Author: Renee Umsted
Renee is an editor at the Advocate.