A shot of tequila, real estate and Fort Worth history come together in a top 2023 story

dfwnewsa | December 22, 2023 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

A shot of tequila, real estate and Fort Worth history come together in a top 2023 story

Andrew de la Torre, Sarah Castillo, Stephen Slaughter and Ale Ochoa (l-r) of La Pulga Spirits. (Courtesy photo | La Pulga Spirits)
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Editor’s note: During the holiday season, the Fort Worth Report is looking back at the stories you told us you appreciated the most in 2023.

When I knocked on the door at 5300 Pershing Ave. in Fort Worth’s Westside, I knew there was probably some history there. What I didn’t know is that I was knocking on the door of a building that was the location of what was called Arlington Heights Public School, which was built in 1896. Public education was just gaining a foothold in Fort Worth at the time, and this house was a key factor in its history. 

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I wasn’t there to find out about the history of the building or of public education in Fort Worth. I was there to talk tequila, real estate and the distillery business with the owners of La Pulga, a business that had formed in 2020 to do just that.

The owners are three Fort Worth entrepreneurs that were simultaneously releasing a tequila, preparing to update the longtime market at University Drive and Jacksboro Highway and make plans to release a new locally sourced spirit, sotol. In other words, they plan to make history while officing out of a building with plenty of history itself. 

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This was the story that obviously intrigued our readers. The story combined a few subjects of perennial interest to readers. Eating, drinking and the key question: ‘What’s happening to my favorite place in Fort Worth ever?’

The eating part was related to one of La Pulga’s co-founders, Sarah Castillo. She is the founder and managing partner of Taco Heads, Sidesaddle Saloon and Tinies. Readers, and that includes me, want to know what she is doing because we probably want to eat, drink and hang out at whatever place has her name attached to it. The other co-founders are former bar owner Andrew de la Torre and real estate developer and entrepreneur Stephen Slaughter. 

Together, they are building a company that is already offering a tequila brand, La Pulga, making plans to update the historic Pequeño Mexico flea market at 960 N. University Drive, also named La Pulga, and which de la Torre says is one of the oldest open-air flea markets in the country. That’s the real estate part of the story as well as the “What’s happening to my favorite place in Fort Worth ever?” part. 

The flea market plans include adding a distillery for sotol, another spirits product, which is somewhat similar to tequila. 

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The group also has plans for a hotel on the site. But, perhaps most important for them, and the area, they are keeping the open air market up and running. Expect more announcements on the La Pulga site in the new year, they told me when I checked in recently. 

While they work on those plans, the company’s tequila brand continues growing in the Dallas-Fort Worth market. They plan to expand its distribution throughout Texas in 2024. The company’s blanco tequila was rated as one of the top 100 spirits of 2023 by Wine Enthusiast, which gave it an individual rating of 93 points. 

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Earlier in 2023, La Pulga brought on board Ale Ochoa,the former whiskey scientist at Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co., as head of spirits. 

La Pulga’s plans coincide with other development plans taking shape in the area near the Panther Island project, as well as the developments around the former Fort Worth Independent School District administration building at White Settlement Road and University Drive. 

Speaking of Fort Worth ISD, that building at 5300 Pershing Ave. was recently the  home of League Real Estate before being leased out for offices. 

League Real Estate video on their former headquarters. (Courtesy | League Real Estate)

But back in 1896 it was an early public school for westsiders until 1909. All grades were housed in the building. The school moved in 1909 to nearby 5100 El Campo Ave. Public education was just getting started here with the first school tax election taking place in 1877.

And, now, the house may make history again.  

Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at bob.francis@fortworthreport.org.

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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