If you graduated from the University of Oklahoma, and haven’t been back for a couple of years, you might not recognize Campus Corner. Over the past decade it’s been a revolving door of burrito restaurants (Moe’s Southwest Grill, Freebird’s, Chipotle, Chimy’s…) and many longtime staples (Cookies ‘n’ Cards, Pita Pit) no longer occupy the space along Asp Avenue north of Boyd Street.
This fall, former University of Oklahoma head football coach Barry Switzer will become a regular presence just north of campus as his “Coach’s Cabana” color commentary program moves to the parking lot of Hideaway Pizza along Buchanan Ave. As The Journal Record’s Molly Fleming reports, it’s part of a growing trend of activity in the restaurant and entertainment district:
Campus Corner Association Executive Director Erin Patton said Switzer hosted similar events at his home. When he heard that the association wanted an event to bring traffic to Buchanan Avenue, conversations started to get the coach to the retail area. Switzer will be in the Hideaway Pizza parking lot.
Coach’s Cabana is one of several activities that Patton and the association are developing.
“We want to make Campus Corner more than an OU attraction,” she said. “We’ve spent a lot of our time lately focusing on the Norman community and the metro. We’re here for families as much as we are for OU fans and game day.”
“They've been adding some activities. They had an arts festival called Arts on the Corner,” said The Journal Record’s managing editor Adam Brooks. “They're encouraging the merchants to participate in a sidewalk sale. They really just want people to know that they're going to be more attractive to families and to the community at large.”
Judy Hatfield, who’s working on filling the Chimy’s space between Buchanan Ave. and the Asp Ave. parking lot, told Fleming her fellow developers want to focus on local ownership, but they’re also trying to create a balance that creates a good flow for people coming to the area for a variety of reasons.
On the other side of Oklahoma City, the city of Edmond is becoming a hotspot for franchisees, like a Tide Dry Cleaners at 164th and Western Ave., along with Rocket Fizz, Mainstream Boutique, and a School of Rock all coming to downtown’s Campbell Corner.
“It's a good town for franchises because it's really safe,” Brooks said. “They've got easy traffic. There's good income and good demographics in the area, so that attracts those businesses.”
But Oklahoma is still in a precarious economic situation, and even though commodity prices are slowly starting to rise, it still doesn’t seem like small business ownership should thrive. But Fleming writes that the economic downturn has actually contributed to the surge:
CBRE|Oklahoma retail broker Stuart Graham said he hasn’t noticed an increase in franchisees, but he wouldn’t be surprised if it’s happened. He said he’s seen an uptick previously when people lost jobs and had severance packages or large amounts of cash.
He said he can understand why some franchisees are heading to Edmond. The northern metro city has the demographics, as well as the Class A space businesses want.
“Everyone wants that 2,800 square feet next to Target,” he said. “But there are only so many of those opportunities around. Class A vacancy in our market is very, very low. Finding that perfect space is impossible.”
“Another benefit for property owners when a franchise comes in is that you know you have an owner that at least some organization behind them, some safety net, and in most cases has been vetted for their financial ability to keep their business going,” Brooks said.
The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.
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