Last week, I looked at eVapor, a vape shop on High Street that’s doing considerably well, probably due to the surge in popularity of vaping. However, as I mention then, not all business are that lucky.
In fact, Morgantown has quite a few “problem locations”: buildings and storefronts that can’t seem to keep a business open for very long. While these locations have seen a highly diverse background, there are commonalities among them, and the answer to why so many businesses especially restaurants, fail in Morgantown may be linked to the past.
1. Location, Location, Location
Opening a business isn’t an easy venture. Successfully opening one in Downtown Morgantown is almost impossible. Many of the storefronts we’ll cover today are located in or near Downtown. Unless a business has made a name for itself or is otherwise a staple of the town, it’ll struggle, and likely fail or move.
With exception of the Bombay Indian Grill, these locations are very, very close to each other. It could be that new restaurants fare better in other areas of Morgantown, and the downtown area attracts more college students (with less money) and less tourists/townies (usually with more money).
2. Not Everybody Gets a Slice of the Pie
Of the five locations listed above, three of them have been pizza restaurants (or otherwise heavily featured pizza) in recent years. However, downtown Morgantown is already exceeding its pizza quota.
There’s no room for another pizza place in town. You could argue that point by citing the recently-opened Lotsa Mozza’s success, but that restaurant’s presentation and ordering process is so unique that it is able to make a name for itself where other’s couldn’t.
One such place is Tortoni’s, who occupied the building across the street from Pita Pit until last fall before closing after they failed to stand out among the competition.
Ironically (or maybe not, who knows), when I was writing a story about Lotsa Mozza’s opening for the WVU student newspaper, then-Tortoni’s manager Jessica Foster claimed that her restaurant wouldn’t be threatened by the inception of a new pizza place.
We have so much going on here that we’ve just been worried about ourselves. Everything that we do here is made with love. [We’re] a lot different from a lot of other restaurants on High Street where it’s very ‘get-it-and-go’. Here, it’s not like that. We don’t care if you sit in for a while.
While it would be nice to run a business on love and care, in reality, it doesn’t get people in the door. Enough people to sustain a profitable business, anyway.
3. Manifest Destiny isn’t Always the Best Idea
These locations also see existing, successful restaurants, like Pizza Al’s and Tudor’s Biscuit World, try to expand their reach into downtown.
Surprise surprise, it didn’t work.
Why? It’s hard to say. The franchises often suffer from mismanagement and poor advertising, possibly due to the parent chain’s heavier focus on the original store(s). It could also be that those who frequent downtown prefer the area’s already-existing “originals” like Black Bear and Chico’s Fat.
However, it’s not all bad news. Places like Beity and Bombay Indian Grill are doing very well, and have introduced the downtown area to a variety of authentic food.
These restaurants, though admittedly in their infancy, are providing the area’s many Middle Eastern and Muslim students and residents with halal food, as well as catering to vegetarians, vegans, and everyone else.
While it’s too early to tell if these new eateries can fix their locations’ curses is yet to be seen, but they’re faring very well compared to their predecessors.
The tide may very well be turning.