Closing time: life as a small Denton business

Closing time: life as a small Denton business

Closing time: life as a small Denton business
January 22
00:30 2015

Kayleigh Bywater / Staff Writer

All over town, UNT students and Dentonites can be seen eating at restaurants on the Square, looking around small boutiques or resting at parks after busy days on campus or at work. With hundreds of restaurants and sources of entertainment, it seems there is always something to keep the community occupied.

However, there has been a shift in business over the past few years as more local restaurants have closed their doors to make way for new tenants in the area, leaving citizens confused.

From All About Mac on Fry Street to Café Herrera’s on the Square, many eateries have shut down in hot spots around Denton County over the past year, taking with it key economic income for the area.

“The success of small, local businesses often brings wealth to the community,” economics junior C.J. Lee said. “Many times the owners of these businesses are residents of the community, so the profits made by these businesses will be spent mostly in the same community.”

With that in mind, many locals wonder why there has been a chain reaction of businesses closing throughout the area.

One example of a closing in the community was the Smiling Moose Deli, located on West Hickory Street. From the variety of sandwiches it offered to the atmosphere, Smiling Moose was seemingly a hit among college students.

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Smiling Moose Deli’s fence is the only outdoor decoration left that resembles the once sandwich shop.

Greg Johnson of Verus Real Estate, the agency that leased the building to the deli, said he had nothing but high hopes for the restaurant when it first opened.

“The Smiling Moose Deli had their lease with us for around a year and a half,” Johnson said. “They were doing fantastic at first. They went beyond their expectations. The owners were good people and the workers were always willing to help you out with anything. Their business was doing great.”

But there was one thing standing in its way – location. Located near two one-way streets, it was a hassle for customers to get into the parking lot.

Denton Economic Development Program Administrator Julie Glover said the No. 1 complaint she received about the restaurant was regarding its placement.

“I had so many people tell me that it was just too hard to get in and out of the restaurant,” Glover said. “You do not want to feel like you have to go through a maze just to get some food.”

With the Square being one of the most popular spots in Denton, Glover said it is imperative to have good location when opening a small business.

It is also important to have background knowledge in the restaurant business.

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A tray of salt and pepper shakers are left behind on the window sill of the vacant sandwich shop.

Economics professor Michael McPherson said it is crucial for ideas to stand out and owners to know what they are doing when it came to opening a small restaurant instead of rushing into it.

“There is not a lot of room for error in the restaurant business,” McPherson said. “Before people start up a business, they need to think it through. Most businesses end in disaster because they never find their niche. They need to figure out what their restaurant or business can bring to the table that others in the area cannot.”

With such tough competition between restaurants in Denton, Glover said it is imperative that restaurants, especially family-owned and small, know what they are getting themselves into prior to opening.

A big problem most businesses around Denton run into is not planning properly for the slow season or not having enough money.

“From the beginning of January to around April 15, it is slow for restaurants, and a lot of first time restaurant owners do not account for that,” Glover said. “They think they are going to do great because from September to December, the holiday months, they are usually packed. But when people start their New Year’s resolutions, restaurants do not get near as much business and it can seriously hurt small business owners.”

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Traces of what once was Smiling Moose Deli sit alone in an empty room. The deli was open for less than a year.

Glover said a lot of first-time owners starting up in Denton do not realize how much money they will have to spend a month. Just because a restaurant might seem full does not mean it is making a profit.

“If you think about it, restaurants do not keep every single dime they make from the customers,” Glover said. “Owners have to buy all the groceries, and even with bulk discounts, it is still outrageously expensive. Then, they have to hire people for all sorts of jobs, from chopping the lettuce to cleaning dishes. In addition, there are electrical expenses, gas, and just the basic rent, and that is just the beginning.”

Because of these factors, Glover said 80 percent of restaurants go out of business within the first year. Of those lucky enough to survive, only about 50 percent will make it to five years and beyond.

For businesses, it is important to keep the community in mind. A lot of the time, businesses seem to close because not enough people are coming.

“In general, you really have to think about two things: cost and demand,” Lee said. “You need to produce goods that meet the demand of consumers in Denton while raising enough revenue to cover the cost and make profit.”

Even with the closings of restaurants within the past year, Glover said there is always a new restaurant idea waiting around the corner.

The space occupied by the Smiling Moose Deli will soon become a New York Pizza and Pasta Restaurant. The vacant buildings that once housed Gerhard’s and Goldmine BBQ will be home to two new bars, Muddy Jake’s Sports Pub and Grill and Service Industry. 

“The great thing about Denton is citizens are always coming up with new and inventive ideas waiting to be brought to life in their own business,” Glover said. “Especially with restaurants, people are always looking for a vacant space. Even though it really is hard to keep a restaurant going anywhere, Denton is a special small town.”

Featured Image: New York Pizza & Pasta will open in the space once occupied by Smiling Moose after everything is cleared out. Photos by Adriana Salazar – Staff Photographer

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