Businesses Struggle to Survive on The Drag

 

By Nancy Huang

Following the leave of Pizzeria Vetri from Urban Outfitter’s Space24 Twenty in January, Symon’s Burger Joint on Guadalupe has closed, leaving new space for other local vendors to open up shop.

Nathan Smith, a commercial real estate agent for Austin Tenant Advisors, said the In-N-Out hamburger chain, which opened last year, might have contributed to Burger Joint’s closing.

“Areas with high business traffic like Guad don’t do well with restaurant repetition,” Smith said. “It doesn’t work when there are two burger joints sitting that close to each other.”

Smith said the rent was already rising when In-N-Out Burger opened on Guad. With Symon’s Burger Joint closing, other restaurants have the opportunity to move into these spaces.

Husband and wife business partners Courtney and Ron Lunan are moving their mobile coffee shop, Lucky Lab Coffee, into the vacated space in September. This new move signifies a big change; the coffee truck company is opening its first brick-and-mortar location.

Along with Lucky Lab Coffee, hot dog spot Frank will open up a location in Symon’s Burger Joint’s counter space. This will be Frank’s second Austin location and third overall. Other Frank locations include the original on West 4th Street and one in San Antonio.

Rachel Albright, creative director for Urban Outfitters, said pop-ups are what keeps these spaces exciting.

“[Urban Outfitters is] always keeping things fresh with different vendors,” Albright said. “For a space like this that’s so close to students, we have a kind of access to campus life that no one else has. We want to make the best of it.”

Urban Outfitters properties like Space24 Twenty have opened up in cities like LA and Williamsburg. Austin is the third city where a communal entertainment and eatery space has been built.

“We chose Austin because the culture of this town grants us a lot of permission to have fun,” Albright said. “We’re trying to stay relevant by really listening to the students on campus. We want them to like our space.”

Fourth year Plan II and History major Thanh Bui said she likes Space24 Twenty, but all the closings and moving businesses are a turnoff.

“Every time a new business comes in, it’s like a new thing and of course people are interested,” Bui said. “But then, after the restaurant’s been there for a while and it’s even established a relationship with students and the campus, it leaves and we’re left with a new one. Personally I don’t think that kind of thing will attract more customers.”

Bui said all the recent closings on Guadalupe and other parts of Austin are indicative of a wider issue.

“So many things are changing on Guad,” Bui said. “It’s hard to tell if this place even has a culture anymore.”

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