Businesses hope to bring, keep customers in the area
On a Wednesday afternoon in downtown Pflugerville, a handful of shoppers are making their way up Main Street.
It’s a sight city officials and business leaders say they would like to see a lot more of as they explore options to transform the downtown district into a bustling destination for residents and visitors.
With almost a year of business under his belt, Toy Time owner Rob Sides watches cars pass by his store each day and wonders what can be done to encourage more of them to stop.
“I want to know … how do we get (shoppers) to come into our stores?” Sides said. “How do we get them to stop?”
One way business owners, including Sides, are promoting their district is through the Pflugerville Downtown Association, a nonprofit organization made up of local business owners.
Sides said the focus of the association is to foster support for existing businesses. He said the organization focuses on community ties to create word of mouth exposure.
“Our mission is to promote businesses and the downtown area as a whole,” Sides said. “[We] want to share ideas and help promote a business once it’s here.”
Sides said community events, such as regular sidewalk sales and Pflugerville’s annual Deustchen Pfest, are the biggest ways he has attracted customers since opening in December.
“People are enjoying the shops that are here. They’re talking about them, and that’s creating a buzz. It’s starting to gain some traction,” Sides said.
To capitalize on the success of community events, the Downtown Association plans to start a monthly First Friday, a street market event featuring local vendors, food and activities for attendees.
“We do hope that through our efforts ... potential business owners see the benefits of being downtown and then make the move to be here,” Sides said.
Sides said in order to further capitalize on buzz and maximize the attention, civic leaders need to focus on key areas.
“I would love if the city would [do things] here that encourage foot traffic,” Sides said. “We need ways to get people to think that this is a place they can come and spend a few hours walking around.”
New street lights
One way the city is looking to do that is by replacing existing street lights on Pecan Street with custom-designed solar-powered lamps. Floyd Akers, executive director of the Pflugerville Community Development Corp., which co-funded the $50,000 project, said the street lamps will help define the downtown shopping district.
“We want (shoppers) to feel welcome to take their time and walk around here,” Akers said.
Akers said as Pflugerville’s growth surges to the east, the city still wants shoppers to know its roots.
“It’s easy to lose your character when you’re getting all this new development,” Akers said. “But we need to remind people of where we came from, that we have a vibrant and thriving downtown, too.”
Sides thinks the lights are a step in the right direction.
“It separates the central business district as a clearly defined, individual area,” Sides said. “By making it [walkable], it helps show residents that there is something valuable happening downtown.”
One concern for those looking to encourage foot traffic growth is the lack of dining options in downtown Pflugerville. Beau Dawson, owner of Flower Child Design floral shop and head of the Pflugerville Downtown Association, said more restaurant diversity could help boost business.
“It’s those restaurants that get people to come out for an afternoon lunch or to prompt them to spend an evening down here,” Dawson said. “Right now they just don’t have that many choices.”
In the downtown district, only three full-service sit-down restaurants, Tequila Grill, El Rincon and Das Cafe exist.
“It’s tough to open a restaurant downtown,” Dawson said. “They have to rely on weekend crowds, and without the foot traffic to support it, that can be hard to do.”
Restaurant owner Ines Mosley opened Das Cafe, a German eatery, on July 6. She said although business was slow at first, signs indicate it could be ramping up. Mosley said community events such as sidewalk sales are beneficial for the business.
“Slowly but surely, more customers are finding us, but it takes time,” Mosley said.
New venue, new clientele
Pflugerville Mayor Jeff Coleman acknowledged a lack of local options has residents trained to leave town for their shopping and dining needs.
“As mayor, the No. 1 request I hear is that we need more sit-down restaurants (downtown),” Coleman said.
Coleman said a lack of diversity in options for dining and bar patrons sparked the idea to open a new venue. In October, Coleman and a team of local investors plan to launch PBK Stem & Stein, a wine bar and eatery. The venue is set to open at 111 E. Main St., the former home of the European Bistro, which closed in July.
Coleman said he looked to neighboring cities with thriving downtowns such as Round Rock to identify elements that were missing from Pflugerville.
“It’s going to evolve over time. These are just small steps in downtown’s evolution,” Coleman said. “Our goal is to let residents understand if they want something, they can find it downtown. They don’t have to go to Round Rock, Georgetown or Austin.”