Parkit Market runs in the family

Three generations of the Todora family run Parkit Market

Ann Todora, 90, is matriarch of the Todora family, which opened Parkit Market in 1962. Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

When Parkit Market opened in 1962, Greenville was a two-lane street, and University was a dirt road. There were no apartments and few homes.

Tony Todora, whose parents built Parkit Market on what was an empty lot, made flyers to leave at duplexes on Matilda, but when he went to deliver them, the then-18-year-old found them all vacant. Their potential customers were nonexistent.

Now Parkit Market is 50 years old, widely accepted as the best place to get a keg in Dallas, and still owned and operated by the Todora family. The Todoras own their shopping center, at the southeast corner of Greenville and University, where they also operate a liquor store and a flower shop. The 90-year-old matriarch, Ann Todora, still lends a hand at the businesses. She also makes homemade Italian sausage, 25 pounds at a time, for the Parkit Market deli, as well as homemade cakes.

“She always says, ‘If you ever retire, you’ll die,’ ” Tony Todora says. “If she meets you, she’ll want to bake you a cake.”

Three generations of Todoras are represented in the family business. Seated are Ann Todora and her oldest son Tony. Standing, from left to right, are Ann’s daughter Gina Hansen, sons Pete, Johnny, Steve and Michael, and grandson Christopher. Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Frank and Ann Todora each grew up in the grocery business. Both of their fathers owned grocery stores, and they met when Frank, who worked for Wonder Bread, delivered to her family store.

After they married, they operated two “superette” groceries. Their third store, Parkit Market, opened when Ann was pregnant with their sixth son. Their only daughter, Gina, was born a couple of years later.

The third generation of Todoras is represented by Frank and Ann’s grandson Christopher.

Parkit Market was off and running once the first apartment complex, which would later become part of “the village,” was built.

“This was the place to be in the ’70s,” Tony says. “The SMU students were all moving to these apartments, and they were all partying.”

Tony himself attended SMU, which is how Parkit Market found a niche selling beer kegs. A pal asked him if he could order a keg for a party, and he obliged. He soon became known on campus as the guy who could order a keg.

Now Parkit Market offers 760 beers by the keg. They sell about a thousand 20-pound bags of ice every week.

“There are beers you’ve never heard of on [the list], but every one of them sells,” Tony says.

It’s not just a convenience store. It can also serve as one-stop shopping for parties of any size. Liquor, kegs, margarita machines, flowers, ice and even homemade cakes can all be ordered for delivery.

Dustin Smith recently had to order liquor, beer and wine at the last minute for his wedding reception in Deep Ellum. He was frenzied, trying to pull things together the week before the event. When the order went out, one of the Todora brothers noticed he hadn’t ordered ice. So they threw some on the order and decided to charge him for it later. They figured he had enough on his plate that day.

“I just can’t say enough about this place,” Smith says. “I came in with my suggestions, and [Tony] gave me his. They delivered on time and picked everything up.”

Even though the Todora brothers work at the store, most of them have other interests. Three of them also work in commercial real estate. While there are three generations running the store now, most of Frank and Ann’s grandchildren are not in the family business.

“This is a really labor-intensive business, and the hours are long,” Tony says. “They all want to work here when they’re little, but there’s better things they could be doing.”

The Todoras might not be running Parkit Market 50 years from now, but they’re there now, every day, and so far, this is their busiest year ever, Tony says. At 90, Ann Todora can’t do as much as she used to, although she tries. Recently she baked 40 cakes for the Bishop Lynch bazaar, plus a few dozen cupcakes, and she sold out of everything she brought. She still makes homemade spaghetti sauce for the deli’s meatball subs. She makes barbecue for sandwiches, meatloaf, chili, and tuna and chicken salad. Get them while they last.

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About the Author:

Rachel Stone
RACHEL STONE is the Oak Cliff editor. Email rstone@advocatemag.com or follow twitter.com/advocate_oc.