The other morning we had breakfast at Tommy's Cafe with Norma Witherspoon. Norma owns and operates Nick's Beauty Supply on the corner of New Braunfels and Burnet Streets. She wanted to talk about the New Braunfels street business corridor. The area she is concerned about runs from the Ft. Sam Houston gate to Houston street. Her and other small business owners along this stretch of New Braunfels street feel they may be missing on the economic development promised by the BRAC and the Eastside re-investment initiatives being promoted by the city. The gate closure at the New Braunfels street entrance to Ft Sam and the opening of Walters Street as the main entrance to the post were two reasons for the concern.
There is no question that the gate closure has had the greatest impact on businesses just outside the gate since there is no direct traffic coming in or out of the post. It's unlikely that the military will open the gate any time soon. One compromise would be to open the gate as an exit only but so far the military is not listening to community and neighborhood concerns. Further south from the gate on New Braunfels and past the interstate there is a healthy infrastructure of small businesses already in place. At the intersection of Houston and New Braunfels streets there are several anchor businesses that appear to be thriving, although a major upgrade is sorely needed to the HEB grocery store at that corner. As for Walters Street, its still too early to determine if the corridor will eventually develop into a viable business gateway. Walters street past the interstate is mostly residential and it will take some deep pockets to develop the area with new businesses.
Norma is a long time Eastside business owner and over the years she's heard many promises for economic development and seen little change. On the other hand, the way I see it the New Braunfels street corridor stands a good chance of further development if the small business owners are willing to organize themselves into a common voice and are willing to work together to bring the right kind of attention and resources. Timing is every thing in life and I think that the time is ripe for business growth along this stretch of the Eastside.....but the reality is that these business owners and the community cannot stand around and wait for it to happen.