Bruegger’s Bagels and Boardwalk Fresh Burgers and Fries, two of the flagship retail spaces in the 70 mixed-use development on South Lamar Boulevard, have closed after less than a year in business. The local franchisees of Bruegger’s, who owned the Lamar location, still operate the original Austin location on Bee Cave Road. That store opened in March 2012. Boardwalk Burgers, which originated in Maryland in 1981, has a website listing for a second Austin location at Tech Ridge, but that phone number redirects to the shuttered 704 location.
I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but I’m not terribly surprised at the closings. Vertical mixed-use retail, especially restaurants, can be a tough nut to crack. Despite the parking garages at the 704, in particular, it doesn’t have curb appeal that makes it look like an easy stop for lunch or dinner. I think people drive (fast) past those buildings and think ‘residences’ not ‘restaurants.’ That leaves the businesses to rely heavily on the tenants in those buildings, and that will never be a big enough market to move the needle. (Also of note: despite the friendly staff, the music and burgers at Boardwalk were a big turnoff, so maybe that factored into it.) I think it is an especially tough challenge for franchises of national chains in a town that loves local businesses. Of course, I could be wrong. I’d be happy to hear your take.