The Drag Race: Businesses shift gears to stay open on Guad

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Photo Credit: Diane Sun | Daily Texan Staff

Students walking along Guadalupe Street can expect to see changes to the shopping strip every year. This year, the closing of Guad-mainstay Ruby’s BBQ and the recent opening of Rise, a donut and biscuit joint, continue the long list of alterations to the Drag.

According to business owners on the Drag, operating so close to the University is no easy feat. 

“The difficult part of it is not the students themselves; it’s because they’re students, they leave during the summer and during the Christmas break,” said David Roberts, co-owner of restaurant Thai How Are You. “This affects everybody on the Drag.”

Roberts’ restaurant, recognizable for the iconic frog mural painted on its side, has only been open since 2014. Before it was Thai How Are You, the space was another restaurant called Thai Spice. Before that it was Baja Fresh, a Tex-Mex eatery. 

While any restaurant has to deal with changes based on seasons, Roberts said, “On the edge of a campus, it’s much more significant.”

Roberts said there are three possible ways a business can deal with this seasonality: budgeting so that money carries over throughout the year, getting help from investors or taking out loans.

“It’s challenging because you’re coughing up a huge rent every month regardless of if the sales are there or not,” Roberts said. “We deal with it in various ways, but that is the challenge, by and large.”

Caffé Medici, a popular student study spot and coffee joint, deals with students leaving during summer and other breaks by budgeting and adjusting store hours, said general manager Thomas King.

“One of the things we have to do every summer and every Christmas break is adjust our hours,” King said. “It goes back to that concept of really making sure that you’re looking at the whole picture, as opposed to just your boom months and thinking that’s what it is going to be all the time.”

Caffé Medici has been on Guad for the past 10 years, and King said each year brings new challenges that the store must adjust to, such as West Campus construction making it hard to park near the shop.

“It’s a balancing act,” King said. “Some years, Tuesdays are super busy, some years it’s Wednesdays … and that has to do with what the schedule is like just across the street (at the University).”

Tyler’s, an apparel store on 24th and Guadalupe Streets, adjusts by changing their inventory based on the types of customers they see throughout the year.

“There’s definitely changes through semesters instead of the seasons like there would be at a normal store,” said Sydney Doud, Tyler’s department manager. “If there’s more (little) kids here (during the summer), we’ll bring the kids’ stuff out. If there’s more college kids, then we’ll make the focus on the flip flops, the sandals and the T-shirts.”

Government senior Hana Adeni said he was disappointed when Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurant Kismet Cafe relocated away from the Drag in 2016. Kismet was located on the corner of West 24th and Guadalupe Streets for 22 years, and Adeni said he misses the spot’s halal food options and convenient hours.

“I understand why the Drag is constantly changing, because the rent must be ridiculously high, and other than students and tourists, I don’t really know who else must be visiting those restaurants and stores,” Adeni said. “But just because I understand why it’s all happening, doesn’t make it less sad.”