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Small Business Spotlight: High Country Market Bistro and GastroPub

In honor of Small Business Week, we will be celebrating and highlighting local small businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the week. Today we are highlighting High Country Market Bistro and GastroPub.  Zahir Walji, owner of High Country Market, shares with us the motivation for his business, hurdles he overcame, and other advice for entrepreneurs just starting out.

Describe the concept for your business and what motivated your idea.

In 2012, We were by a large investment house (JP Morgan) to create a “One-Stop Shopping” concept for a residential and retail project in Austin that they were creating and investing in; specifically, it had to had a “high-end”, specialized Retail Convenience Market (as opposed to a convenience store) that encompassed the following:

  • convenience store items, but with a better level of use and sophistication (eg. organic sodas and “better” waters as opposed to the run-of-the-mill items offered in a typical convenience store);
  • a bistro/diner serving “simple” food made from scratch and sourced locally as best possible;
  • catering services to the residents living in the building as well as accessibility to the establishment that surrounding neighborhood can reach and frequent over by either walking or by local public transport;
  • a good selection of craft beers, good wines as well as various soft drinks and snacks;
  • a small yet decent size place to “hang-out” and spend time visiting other residents and neighbors.

In the test project (in Round Rock), we decided to incorporate gasoline services as local transportation in still in the making;

As such, the descriptives “Market”, “Bistro” and “Gastropub” apply well.

What was hurdle you had to overcome?

Not gauging the true demographic profile of the local market. We only did a Traffic Impact Analysis and an Economic Analysis of the existing neighborhoods, not realizing (nor taking into account) their shopping patterns and preferences. To add, we discounted the strength and lure of HEB in their putting up a reasonable and successful fight in mainlining their traffic flow (initiation of road barriers by the City of Round Rock after we opened for business);

What do you attribute to your success?

“Success” is relative. We have managed to say afloat by maintaining our concept but are truly considering on cost cutting. Some of the set backs we ALL small businesses have faced: Pandemic restrictions; labor shortages from government incentives being provided; new competition; capital shortages for capital improvements; etc.

What would be one piece of advice to someone just starting out?

When starting a business, make sure you understand the timelines and your funds availability from initiating the project/concept up to actually having your doors open.

Be prepared for as many adverse scenarios you can think of – many local small businesses will help and offer advice along those lines. Plan on having “rainy day” funds available. Be versatile and yet prudent with your concept and end-use – have the ability to be fast to change, move or close your business.