Along with San Marcos’ explosive population growth has come an influx of businesses, particularly restaurants. While some of these businesses flourish, many are forced to shutter their windows as the market pushes them out.
Examples of these can be found in the many-times-resurrected Bobcat Nation Sports Bar and Grill, VERTS Mediterranean Grill and the Potbelly Sandwich Shop. Conversely, establishments such as Nostimo Mediterranean Cafe and Torchy’s Tacos have been met with apparent success.
San Marcos Economic Development Administrator Kevin Burke said that there is no silver bullet for an infant business to dodge in San Marcos and that many of these closures are due simply to a sharp increase in businesses over the past several years.
“In the last three years: 2015, 2016, 2017 – the market has become much more saturated than it ever has been in San Marcos,” Burke said. “From a consumer perspective that’s a really great thing. The flip side of that is when you are a franchise or a small entrepreneur or local business owner, it’s going to make it really difficult for survival.”
The effects of this saturated market seem to particularly affect establishments that spring up downtown. Burke said that over a third of the restaurants that were opened in 2016 opened in that area.
“In 2016 we had 28 restaurants open in San Marcos,” said Burke. “Ten of those were downtown.”
Kevin Carswell, president of the local coffee shop Mochas and Javas, noted that starting a business in a college town is a difficult undertaking.
“We opened 15 years ago on a shoestring budget and sometimes I feel like we’re still on a shoestring budget,” Carswell said.
He said that two of the most important attributes of Mochas and Javas that have allowed its success are persistence and community engagement.
“For us it’s persistence, it’s our business, we fund it, and my goal is to never have to go back and work for anyone else so I will do what I need to do to ensure we continue to grow,” Carswell said. “We’re also very community involved: schools, churches, the university. We’re not a gigantic donor to any one system but we do a whole lot of donations throughout the year.”
Burke said that the increase in restaurants is following a national trend that we could expect to drop off in the future.
“Differences in franchising models and the entrance of private equity firms into the restaurant space really may have been what resulted in this huge boom over the last few years,” Burke said. “We’probably see it get trimmed back over the next couple years.”
San Marcos is witnessing unprecedented numbers of businesses opening up may not come as a surprise to residents who watched as their city shot to the top of the U.S. Census Bureau’s fastest growing cities list for three years in a row from 2012 to 2015. The effects of the boom are being felt along the I-35 corridor as the area between Austin and San Antonio.