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Business owners reflect on the difficulty of operating in the shadow of King William

Photo: illustration by Chuck Kerr, License: N/A

illustration by Chuck Kerr

Photo: File photo, License: N/A

File photo

Rene Guerrero of the Southtown Chamber of Commerce opened Madhatter’s Tea House a couple doors down from the Friendly Spot on Beauregard Street years ago, but he has since sold the business. He also says there’s a reason why new businesses are flocking to the Lavaca neighborhood, a few miles further south in Southtown, instead of King William. “There are so many hoops that small businesses have to jump through to get open — code compliance, mechanical, electrical — but in this neighborhood, you’ve got to jump through another hoop, and that’s called the King William Association.”

In the case of Oloroso, a seasonal fine-dining restaurant that opened on South Alamo in 2010, the lack of neighborhood support over the restaurant’s failure to secure dedicated parking made for a quick exit. Today, the building stands vacant, like several other economic casualties of the strip, such as Casbeers at the Church, despite the desirability of Southtown real estate.

Conflicts aside, the saving grace of King William is the influx of fresh blood. As bilingual Bonham Elementary has emerged as one of the city’s best schools, young families with children are moving into the area, and bringing their progressive attitudes with them.

Michael Girdley and his family, including two small children, have lived in King William for four years. “More than an owner, I consider myself a caretaker of my home,” he said of his 122-year-old residence.

Formerly a San Francisco resident, Girdley says the noise and parking issues don’t outweigh the positives that come with living in a vibrant and walkable urban neighborhood. “We don’t live in Stone Oak and we all chose not to live in Stone Oak for a reason. If everyone would relax a little everything would be okay.”

But if Southtown is going to recapture its more bohemian period, it will likely take a few more transplants like Girdley.

“They’ve taken away the vendors, the music, the fact that no one can drink anymore on the street, they’ve done it because they own land and they have money,” Cuellar said.

So while Cuellar leaves Jive behind to put redoubled energy into his fashion designs, watch for new storefronts to open … down the road in Lavaca and, possibly, across town on North St. Mary’s. •

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