The INSIDER took to the streets and asked Downtown businesses about the impact they felt during the El Paso Chihuahua’s first homestand.
The businesses that felt a positive impact report that this past Friday, May 2nd produced the best results. Last Friday was unique because Downtown came alive to receive Chihuahuas fans, but also hosted a Jerry Seinfeld performance at the Abraham Chavez theater while Destination El Paso kicked off the beginning of the Alfresco! Fridays concert series at the Convention Center Plaza.
These events contributed to a huge influx of traffic, making Downtown look like the best of the urban centers across the region and the rest of the country, but we set out to learn what individual Downtown owners experienced.
Soho Sports Pub on the corner of Franklin Ave and Oregon St reported phenomenal activity before, during and after the game. Just a few doors down, Subway staff expressed less of an impact which may point to the possibility that Chihuahuas fans are looking for a sports fan experience.
The House of Pizza Downtown tried extended hours for the inaugural game but felt patrons were focused on the ballpark that day. “The games did not make too much of a difference but our regular flow of customers hasn’t changed much,” said Cristina Rakas, co-owner of the House of Pizza Downtown. The owners of the popular pizzeria tell us, they still see healthy numbers during the week and hope that as Downtown grows and more businesses open in their area they can open for dinner.
The Garden, sitting in the heart of Union Plaza had a large pre-game crowd on opening day but feel that many El Pasoans are still not aware of their presence, much of the traffic is being directed to parking garages nowhere near them according to manager, Kenji Shigematsu. There is a surface lot tucked away on Anthony Street mostly used during the Downtown Artist and Farmers Market on Saturdays. The parking lot may not be utilized as much during games but they remain confident that after more patrons are educated on their presence business will increase.
“We were happy to receive the pre-gamers for dinner on game days and I feel that once more El Pasoans that have not been downtown in years have acclimated to the area and parking, we will see them in here as well,” said Norbert Portillo, chef and partner of Tabla.
Boutiques at The Mix, also located at Union Plaza, only minutes away on foot from the ballpark expressed a dip in sales while games are happening. “Customers are staying away during games because they don’t think there will be parking but we do have plenty of parking in the area,” said Mariana Castro, owner of OM. Boutique.
The business owners at The Mix all professed support for the El Paso Chihuahuas and hope that the more El Pasoans are aware that traffic and parking are not an issue, they will come Downtown, even during games. The Pint & Peanut Public House in particular partnered with the El Paso Times to promote their pub for the inaugural game. The initiative paid off with a standing room only crowd of pre-gamers.
Across the board, other businesses Downtown have reported an increase in pre-game customers looking for a meal or a drink on game days.
Restaurants reporting those increases include all of the fine dining establishments, Anson 11, Café Central, Fire at the Double Tree by Hilton, The Dome Bar and Café Italia.
Businesses experiencing strong increases on varying days include Pot Au Feu, Hello Day Café, Tabla, The Garden and Kipp’s Cheesesteak. The time during which the games are scheduled, weather and location all seem to be contributing factors for the waves of customers versus steady growth.
Success stories include businesses that planned for the ballpark and anticipated the kind of clientele it would attract. Soho Sports Pub completely transformed into a business model geared towards the Chihuahua fans while Sparrow’s Spirits and Pies on El Paso street finally saw the amount of people their ample square footage was meant to accommodate.
El Luchador Taqueria, was hoping to be open in time for the inaugural ballgame but opted to postpone and is having their grand opening on Friday, May 9th. The taqueria is located next to the Black Pearl nightclub in Union Plaza. Owners are anxiously waiting to see what kind of impact the games will have on business.