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rojo's avatar

Can you suggest a business that might work and survive? (details inside)

Asked by rojo (23661points) June 13th, 2017

In the last couple of years several large (350 -700 units) apartment complexes have been put up in our town. They are located around the university and are, for the most part, filled with students. In their wisdom our city council decided that the bottom floor of these new apartment/dorms should be shops with the residential units on the upper floors. Most of these spaces are still empty. Parking in the immediate area is usually limited to non-existent. Any potential customers not residing in the building have to use the parking garage and while there are plenty of spaces it does require that an effort be made to park and walk to the potential business.
The complex I am thinking of presently has two businesses, a bar and a coffee shop. There have been a couple of clothing stores that opened and folded quickly. Both the bar and the coffee shop are making a go of it but just barely. Because of the parking situation they rely mainly on the residents for business and for the bar, where most of the residents in the complex are under age, the going is tough and I question how long they will survive. There is very little in the way of foot traffic passing by and as I mentioned parking, even short term parking is just not available. Public transportation is minimal and little utilized where I live. Most people drive to wherever they are going and most shopping and restaurants are set up to accommodate a vehicular lifestyle.
So the question, finally, is what suggestions do you have for a viable business that would either have to survive mainly by providing a service or product to a student population of 18 to 21 year olds, all of whom would be walking to it from their home or a business draw that would make it worthwhile for someone to park in a separate building and walk to the store?

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21 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

A pizza place and maybe a hair cutter and maybe a phone service place.

IMO retail is not the way to go. 18–21 year olds now order almost everything online.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Amazon prime was the final cut for retail in my case. About the only buisinesses that will survive are service oriented or deal in perishables. A specialty food pantry, small pub, hair stylist, sandwich shop, perhaps a used book/comic store that hosts MTG or Yu Gi Oh. A small pharmacy would probably do ok. The number of empty indoor malls and strip malls here is a sight to behold. The things I listed are about all that make it here.

kritiper's avatar

This would work for anyone, anywhere.
Getting a car or truck serviced does not include checking the lights for proper operation. A good business, IMO, would be one where a knowledgeable person could and would check the lights, turn signals, tail lights, and be able to replace same and also the flasher unit that controls turn and emergency signaling.

rojo's avatar

When I was younger and in college there was a small restaurant that was run by a contingent of older ladies who looked like your mom or grandma.
They offered home style, home cooked foods; a different meat every day and several sides that always included mashed potatoes and green beans and a variety of other veggie dishes. Friday was always chicken fried steak day; other days had chicken, meatloaf, etc. Your choice was the food of the day or go somewhere else.
The food was served up family style in large bowls and plates set on the tables and the tables were bench style where patrons sat side by side. You would find college kids sitting beside businessmen and across from blue-collar tradesmen and the place was always packed. You paid at the door, grabbed your plate (a real plate, not plastic or paper) and silverware, sat down and dug in, it was all you cared to eat for the same very reasonable price. If you were a regular, woe be unto you if you did not take or eat all your greens, there would be several grandmas tutting over you until you cleaned your plate. I had my ear cuffed for smarting off more than once. Personally I loved the place (It was called “Moms”, of course). It reminded me of home which was several hours away.
I floated this idea to some associates but they did not think it was a viable option with reasons ranging from questions as to whether or not the health codes would let you serve food in such a manner to the ability to get enough older ladies to work there (my opinion was that I thought there were plenty who would like the part time work) to whether or not this generation could even relate to such a place any more.
Ah well.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@rojo I have eaten at such an establishment. Some of the best food I have ever had. They served it family style also.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

* a juice/smoothie shop
* a dollar store (cheap shop) that sells basic necessities, beer, cigarettes, electronic cords, etc.
* a used book store
* a sub shop
* a fitness center
* a laundry facility, if there aren’t facilities available in the apt. portion of the complex
* a sports bar, if the existing pub doesn’t offer this
* a game room/arcade
* a cyber cafe

Dutchess_III's avatar

Having owned my own business and known business owners, I think running a restaurant would be a night mare. All businesses need to comply with some things, but the rules for restaurants are especially stringent.
Food would be a real issue. How much to keep on hand? How much gets wasted if you don’t use it on time.

In that situation, think about your clientele. Young and perpetually broke! I think a bar with limited food might thrive.

stanleybmanly's avatar

bicycle part and repair shop.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s an idea. But inventory is murder.

funkdaddy's avatar

It seems like a lot of these end up being offices for businesses that want an unconventional office or have a limited use for a storefront or high visibility area. It seems to take the owners a couple years to back off of the “mixed use lifestyle” idea that they’re going to provide their residents with everything they need right there.

The rents are usually speculative at first too, so once those come down a little bit, they can find more uses.

Every single condo building that’s gone up in the last 10 years seems to have the same problem here though. Most of the businesses that go in early don’t seem to make it because they expect all that local business, but find people will still have their favorites.

So places that make it tend to be places that are time constrained services but also can foster a wider clientele. Like optometrists, printers, IT sales/service, mobile providers, and the coffee shops and salons you already mentioned.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

No parking equals poor planning at the municipal level.

In most cities or towns have a zoning plan includes number of occupants/residents equals a calculated number of parking spaces including handicapped spaces.

Answer to the Q with there being no parking => restaurant delivery of food ONLY no seating.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Restaurants here have like a 10% two year survival rate. The smaller sandwich shops with low overhead usually do better. Bicycle shops seem to just hang on by a thread. Most serious cyclists do their own maintenance. I never set foot in one unless it’s to purchase a brand new bike. That’s happened like twice.

rojo's avatar

@Tropical_Willie there is parking and I would say ample parking it is just not adjacent to the retail, it is just in a separate building located behind the main structures. Think of a square sectioned by a “T” road. The main structures with the retail/residential are the two smaller squares while the larger rectangle on top of the “T” is the parking/residential.

Any business is going to have to cater to an underage student pedestrian population or have a fantastic draw that would give incentive to make the effort to get to it.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

You said it yourself. Extra parking stalls. Multiple floors. You can start a park and ride, or something similar , for the college students. Anything that can help the students get around , including rides to the campus. Even a bus service.

rojo's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer good suggestions
* a juice/smoothie shop (Good, nothing else similar close by, popular with younger crowd)
* a dollar store (Do students utilize such?)
* a used book store (few readers and most on their phone or notebooks)
* a sub shop (Plenty close to campus)
* a fitness center (Good)
* a laundry facility (units are equipped with w/d but if cheap enough would they pay to have someone else do it? Hmmmm.)
* a sports bar, if the existing pub doesn’t offer this (Yeah, they have lots of TV’s and the vast majority of the residents are under 21)
* a game room/arcade (Are these still around? Would something based on XBox or PS work with larger screens? Hmmm.)
* a cyber cafe (might work but the building includes Wi-Fi and the coffee shop is basically used as a meeting/gathering place)

rojo's avatar

What about a tutoring service?

funkdaddy's avatar

If this is actually something you want to start, I think every idea has probably been tried at least once on the UT Drag. I’m sure other campuses have their own version, but this is the one I’ve been able to watch.

- Arcades all died about 10 years ago, but Game Republik has been there for a bit and sounds similar to what you’re talking about with consoles.
– the laundry places mostly also offer to do yours and fold it for you, some have pickup/delivery, some also offer something else (oil change, coffee shop, gym, etc)
– There are a ton of restaurants, bookstores (textbooks and university themed items usually), haircuts, and trendy clothes places
– tutoring seems like a great fit and there is at least one, but rent is probably the killer down there and I think you’d have to be pretty visible

UT Drag

What about device repair?

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

A dorm cleaning service for students. Or quick meals for students who do not know how to cook and clean.

Kardamom's avatar

A place that sells donuts, good coffee drinks, and sandwiches would be useful to the people in the apartments and anyone walking by. If the place has really good items, of those three types, other people will park and come in.

Think morning, afternoon, and evening. Donuts and breakfast sandwiches and coffee in the morning. Iced coffee and savory, hearty sandwiches (including vegetarian options) and more donuts in the afternoon. Pizza-style sandwiches, and other sammies that would make good dinnertime fare for the evenings.

Creativity would be the key. You can’t just be Subway or even Starbucks, it has to serve people in a better way. And it needs to have a name that suggests that you are there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Maybe you could ask another question on a good name for such a shop, if you like the idea.

ucme's avatar

Arcades, you could have wack a trump & all sorts of delights.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Also you can run a nap room by the hour. Millennials want their naps.

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