Small Businesses Face Challenges of Rising Costs of Rent
By Lauren Feldott
Reporting Texas TV
WESTLAKE, Texas – Austin continues to grow with the addition of large companies like Google and Tesla, and as a result, new residents create more competition for existing small businesses.
For some older, local businesses, this means trouble with rising rent. Some successful ones, however, have something in common: community.
Perriberri, a clothing boutique, has been a staple of the Mira Vista shopping center in Westlake for more than 20 years. While rent has steadily increased over time, the store continues to thrive. Owner Perri Beathard said this is thanks to loyal, local customers.
“We know most of our customers on a first name basis,” Beathard said.
“We’ve established ourselves as just an Austin—a Westlake—business, and we’ve got tried and true customers that are just so loyal.”
Dan Radin, who owns Austin Art and Frame next door to Perriberri, said his business remains successful for the same reasons. He said he doesn’t consider moving even when the rent goes up.
“It would not be desirable to be like, ‘Okay, let’s move across Austin,’ and still think we’re going to retain the same cliente,” Radin said. “There are places farther from Westlake, but you sacrifice the clientele.”
His art store displays works by local artists in rotating showcases, which include sculptures and vivid, energetic oil paintings. He also provides framing and printing services for small to high-end projects. Radin said his greatest asset is the location, but added that the rising costs of operating in Austin have hit him hard.
“Unfortunately, the people doing the leases, they are aware of inflation, but they don’t build that in,” Radin said. “They’re just like, ‘Well yes there’s inflation, but if you’ve had tough years in the past, too bad. We’re still going to increase our rent.’”
He said rent has steadily increased across the city since 2019.
The Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University notes Austin retail rent has risen 20% since 2020. The Center’s study found this increase comes even as vacancy for retail spaces has hovered around 3%.
Westlake Chamber of Commerce Board Member Gena Keller said the trend of rising rents has affected many well-established community stores.
“There have been some businesses that have cratered,” Keller said.
She said those stores are in the minority in Westlake, and that the success of local business here is somewhat unique for Austin.
“I think it’s probably easier for people who have businesses in the Westlake area, if they’re active in the community.” Keller said.
She cites this community involvement as the main reason behind the local business success.
Beathard and Radin said a personable presence by store owners in the Westlake community is an extremely effective form of marketing as it demonstrates a care for their work that cannot be faked.
“The things that people bring in are so diverse,” Radin said. “It ranges from jerseys to print to 3D objects. The other day, someone brought in two pieces of coal.”
Keller said the Westlake Chamber of Commerce itself is a big help to local stores as well.
“We’re all about driving business to local businesses,” she said.
The Chamber does this through networking events and promotion on their its website, which Keller said allows local Westlake businesses to keep pace and grow despite the rising costs of rent.
The owners of Perriberri and Austin Art and Frame plan to renew their leases. They believe their stores will continue to flourish as long as the Westlake community does the same.