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Iconic Texas Retailers and Restaurants on the Chopping Block

Some of Texas’ — and the nation’s — most beloved retail and restaurant landmarks are hanging out “for sale” signs as the pandemic forces them to close permanently. 

Houston-based Luby’s announced last week it will sell all its stores to repay debts owed to shareholders. The decision includes Luby’s restaurants, Fuddruckers, and Luby’s Culinary Services, which provides contract food management services to health care, corporate and higher education organizations. The iconic cafeteria, originally a San Antonio staple, had already been struggling before the pandemic and furloughed all of its employees. 

As the pandemic continues, what other retail stores or restaurants might Texas lose? 

Giants like J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, Sears and J.Crew are among the stores that have filed for bankruptcy in the past or recently during the pandemic, already stressed by billions of dollars in debt. Their futures hang in the balance as their leadership struggles through strategic plans to restructure, hoping that bankruptcy might save them. 

For Dallas-based Neiman Marcus and national fashion name J.Crew, bankruptcy does not necessarily mean permanent closure. J.Crew is hoping its sister denim brand, Madewell, which has done a lot better, will be able to help sales. But until the pandemic is over, all their brick-and-mortar stores are closed. 

Three months after filing for bankruptcy, Texas-based home decor retailer Pier One is permanently closing. It closed 450 stores across the country in February. 

Big city shopping giant Dallas is partly losing an icon as Nordstrom plans to permanently close 16 of its 116 full-line stores, including the Hurst, Texas location. But despite this closure, Dallas shoppers will still have access to a Nordstrom at NorthPark Center, which the company has said is one of its top U.S. stores. The luxury department store is slowly reopening stores that have been closed since mid-March. 

Local stores and restaurants have also been financially hard-hit by the virus, with many multi-location restaurants closing or choosing to focus on other business areas. In Austin, Magnolia Cafe is closing its Lake Austin location, and Buzz Mill Coffee is closing its location at East Seventh Street and Shady Lane to focus on preserving its larger location. 

In Houston, notable permanent closures include all of the Bernie’s Burger Bus locations, acclaimed Montrose Indian food restaurant Indika, the downtown location of popular Korean fried chicken joint Dak & Bop, and Anvil Bar’s newest coffee and wine concept Penny Quarter is closed “indefinitely.” 

And it’s not just retail and food purveyors that are suffering. Live music mega-hub Austin is losin Shady Grove, located right by Zilker Park, after almost 30 years. Shady Grove, also a source of strong margaritas and comfort food, was home to Austin’s longest-running free live music series, Unplugged at the Grove. 

The Texas Restaurant Association has estimated that about 12% of Texas restaurants closed down during the pandemic won’t be reopening. That number could rise to 30 percent if no changes are made to the state’s planned support of restaurants, the association said. 

Worried about your favorite restaurant or place to shop closing? Several other big names are hanging on by a thread, including Forever 21, Jo-Ann Stores and David’s Bridal. This is primarily linked to the shift in the way Texans are shopping online now, a postponement of weddings, and the ongoing hesitancy from consumers to set foot inside a physical store even now that they are allowed to reopen. 

“We believe the economic shutdown and lingering social distancing behaviors will trigger a broad shakeout of retail as the industry will be forced to meaningfully reduce its physical footprint and rapidly evolve to reach the post-pandemic consumer,” S&P credit analyst Sarah Wyeth wrote in a research note. “In particular, if there were any doubts about the eventual demise of many American malls, the impact of the pandemic will likely dispel them.”

Meredith Mohr
Meredith Mohr
Meredith is a writer, editor, storyteller, and "girl-in-the-city." She's created content for thought leaders for publications like Forbes, The Texas Tribune, and The Houston Chronicle.


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