James Zametz was standing in the middle of West Magnolia Avenue wearing a panther suit and a purple “Keep Fort Worth Funky” shirt. It was a warm-bordering-on-hot Sunday afternoon. He waved to people as they passed by, liberally doling out high-fives to kiddos and posing for dozens of pictures. The Near Southside thoroughfare was teeming with humanity. It was the setting for Open Streets, an event that promotes walkable/bikable neighborhoods. The city closed off the mile-long road to cars. Kiosks, tents, food trucks, bands, skateboarders, bicyclists, and hundreds of people replaced the traffic.
“It’s really hot in here,” he said through the heavy mask, standing outside of his tent near Avoca Coffee, where a violinist was playing the Game of Thrones theme to the delight of a few dozen onlookers.
Zametz is the brainchild, marketing guru, and lead organizer of Keep Fort Worth Funky, a small, mostly volunteer outfit that helps promote local businesses, bands, and artists. Until recently, KFWF has mostly made a name for itself by hosting concerts, connecting people with local businesses and businesses with one another, and organizing events such as the Funky Sunday Series at Shipping & Receiving Bar. Despite KFWF’s small numbers, the group’s mustache logo is omnipresent at many significant city events.
“We promote an idea to think locally first when you’re shopping or buying music,” he said. “People who don’t have an avenue to find this stuff, we try to create that portal for them.”
As of a few weeks ago, Zametz literally put the company on solid ground. He created a storefront –– technically, a for-profit group that donates a significant portion of its profits to the community. He set up amid a row of eight shops called Butler’s Alley, which is stationed behind the building that houses Butler’s Antiques and Uniques on 8th Street.
Zametz’ tiny, rustic-looking space houses all manner of shirts, music (tapes, vinyl, and CDs), candles, and other locally only-made fare. In the near future, Zametz said he imagines the store will carry products from local vendors who don’t have enough inventory to warrant renting their own booth.
“I originally was looking for a warehouse to create kind of a YMCA for local people, where they can have a membership, and they can have a maker space there, learn how to brew beer, do yoga classes, massage therapy, and have a little store where we could sell music and products,” he said. “That didn’t pan out. I’ve been going to Butler’s for years. One day I was in there talking to the owner, and it kind of just clicked in my head: This is the place. It’s already here and established.”
The couple who owns Butler’s are in their 80s, and Zametz said they were drawn to the idea of him breathing some new life into their space. Zametz plans on the whole alley becoming the setting for various classes, acoustic music sets, movie nights, and farmers markets.
The first event is Sunday. The Butler’s Alley Bizarre (sic) will feature the alley’s eight storefronts and seven additional pop-up shops (15 shops in all). Fort Worth artist Joe Dufo will be painting a mural during the festivities, and a few food/booze vendors will be on hand, including The Collective Brewing Project, Funky Town Food Truck, and Alchemy Pops.
Zametz said that he’s still on the lookout for unique, locally produced goods to sell at the KFWF shop. Currently, he carries products by Mrs. Jacks Body Foods, which makes soaps, scrubs, beard oils, and all manner of new-aged apothecary goods; Mandles, which pumps out masculine-scented candles (think fresh-cut grass); local artwork; and a local-only music section where artists can drop off albums and sell them on consignment. Any customer can swap one album for another. Bands can also pay a flat monthly rate to house and sell their swag.
Anyone can become a member of Keep Fort Worth Funky for fees ranging from $20 to $225. (The latter includes a sizable gift basket.) Some of the benefits of membership include a discount at participating retailers, $2 off cover charge at Shipping & Receiving and Lola’s Saloon, and a discount for Fort Worth Bike Share fees.
Zametz said Keep Fort Worth Funky’s brick-and-mortar location won’t change its role in the community, just expand it.
“I’ve found myself to be a connecter,” he said. “The last three years of meeting people who own businesses, book events, book shows, it’s turned into a thing where people come to me to find out where they can connect with other people for events and things like that.”
Contact Eric Griffey at firstname.lastname@example.org.