Local Austin Businesses Grow Despite Larger Companies Influx

By: Lauren Giudice, Josh Fechter and Lily Morris


Austin and its economy have been growing rapidly in recent years. Despite this growth and an influx of large corporations opening in the city, local businesses are continuing to thrive and differentiate themselves from large corporations.

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The Austin Independent Business Alliance works to support and promote local businesses through member benefits, education and advocacy. AIBA Executive Director Rebecca Malcon says the group aims to teach Austinites that there are economic and cultural benefits to buying local. AIBA represents over 800 locally owned businesses.

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AIBA commissioned a study in 2002 that determined that three times the money goes to the local economy when you shop at a local retailer. Malcon and members of the alliance have witnessed the gradual increase in large corporations migrating to Austin. Though these businesses could be considered a threat to locally owned businesses, Malcon says the large businesses have the ability to help local businesses because comparing large corporations to local businesses gives the small business the advantage.

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“Local businesses are very in tune with the local culture and what people are looking for,” Malcon said. “They are buying and making products that cater to Austin residents.”

Zocalo, Galaxy Cafe and Top Notch Pizza owner Jay Bunda said large businesses miss out on connecting with customers and helping the community. Bunda’s businesses help out local sports teams and communities where the restaurants are located.

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“What large corporations do is that it tends to be a more moneyed effort and they focus on one big charity,” Bunda said. “There’s nothing wrong with that but I think when it comes to a local business like ours we have customers that we see on a consistent basis and when they come to us asking for help, of course we help them.”

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Bunda said the locations of his restaurants are in isolated neighborhoods, so he doesn’t feel pressure from large corporations coming to Austin. But he believes that Austinites are loyal to the local businesses and he makes an effort to emphasize that his restaurants are locally owned.

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Malcon said in the past ten years more businesses in Travis County are highlighting that they are owned in Austin.

Julie Copp, owner of C. Jane Boutique, claims that while she has watched Austin grow with large department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nordstrom, her store has not struggled because of its location and its clientele. Situated conveniently on the drag right near campus, her local business has steadily thrived for the past seven years, regardless of the big name stores in town.

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“My main customers are the girls that run in straight from class to get something for their formal that night, and that is why my location is crucial to the success of the store,” Copp said. “They know that they will be able to find their brand names and quality clothing right here, instead of dealing with the mess of highways to get to those other malls.”

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While Copp doesn’t think the larger corporations coming into Austin have necessarily harmed her business, she thinks there is one rivaling factor that will always remain constant.

“Austin has exploded as we all know and in a town like this, anything is your competition. But when it comes down to it, I’d have to say my biggest competition is the internet,” Copp said. “That is the only thing that has really harmed boutiques all over Austin because now at 11:30 at night you can have something shipped to you and have it by the next morning. Other than that, I think the fact that more and more large businesses are coming to town is what is making us local businesses even more valuable.”

Though it cannot be exactly calculated, the AIBA and City of Austin determined that the number of locally owned businesses ranges from 35,000 to 78,000. Malcon believes the true number is between 50,000 and 60,000.

Based on a city of Austin’s size, that number is large, according to Melancon. She firmly believes that Austin local businesses are not hurt by these large corporations coming to the city. She referenced the new Trader Joe’s opening on Bee Caves Road. Though that is opening, Wheatsville Co Op is opening a second location nearby.

Both she and Bunda believe that when given the choice, people will choose local business over large corporations and that will continue as Austin grows.



Videos by: Lauren Guidice and Josh Fechter

Photos by: Lily Morris


Austin’s more recent Influx of Large Businesses:

IMG_1848 TopGolf Austin – The Premier Golf Entertainment Complex, opened in April 2013 and can only be found in Texas, Virginia, Illinois, Georgia, Arizona, and the UK.


Whole Food’s flagship store (pictured above) has been such a phenomenal success since its opening in 2005 that it has opened three more stores, not including an upcoming fourth at The Domain, set to open in January of 2014 (pictured below).



Cirrus Logic, a tech company originally headquartered in Silicon Valley, CA, moved its headquarters to Austin in 2000 and since then has been ranked #7 on Forbe’s list of America’s Best Small Companies.

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CYC Fitness, an indoor cycling studio opened in West Campus in 2012 and offers a rigorous workout created by celebrity fitness trainer Keoni Hudoba.


 Trader Joe’s, a specialty grocery store with the majority of its stores located in California, opened in Austin in September of 2013.


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