Despite the ongoing pandemic, new eateries have emerged in the Lake Travis-Westlake area

Amanda Wadsworth opened Tiny Pies' West Lake Hills location this summer. (Photos by Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Amanda Wadsworth opened Tiny Pies' West Lake Hills location this summer. (Photos by Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)

Amanda Wadsworth opened Tiny Pies' West Lake Hills location this summer. (Photos by Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)

Amanda Wadsworth has been a business owner in the Austin area for nearly 10 years.

She and her mother, Kit, launched their small business, Tiny Pies, in 2011—but there is nothing small about the business’s growth.

Since 2011, Tiny Pies has expanded into three Austin-area locations, and orders are now shipped nationwide.

Wadsworth was preparing to celebrate the grand opening of her third location in West Lake Hills just in time for Easter. Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit Central Texas and caused her to delay the opening.

Despite being an experienced business owner, Wadsworth said she almost feels like she’s back in “startup mode.”••“Every day is changing for us,” Wadsworth said. “We’ve just been kind of flying by the seat of our pants here, trying to keep going during [the pandemic].”••Tiny Pies’ third retail location finally opened in June—a move Wadsworth described as a leap of faith.

Despite the ongoing obstacles, delays and uncertainties caused by the pandemic, small business owners such as Wadsworth are fighting to stay afloat.

Unfortunately, much like downtown Austin, the Lake Travis-Westlake region has seen its share of business closures since March — Steiner Ranch’s Galaxy Cafe, Lake Travis’ Lucy’s on the Lake and Westlake’s Biderman’s Deli, to name a few.

However, several new restaurants and cafes have recently opened in the area, and more are preparing to launch this fall. In many cases, companies less than a year old did not qualify for federal or local coronavirus relief funds and without access to assistance, new business owners told Community Impact Newspaper they took a financial risk in opening.

New restaurants push to open

In nearby Bee Cave, another bakery was gearing up for its grand opening. Foliepop’s, a new French pastry cafe, opened within the Hill Country Galleria in July. The family-operated shop, owned by Executive Chef Antonie Chassonnery and Chief Executive Officer Audrey Sigoure, offers customizable pastries.

Much like Tiny Pies, the Foliepop’s team hoped to introduce the community to their new concept in early spring until the pandemic struck. Since then, the team has had to overcome several challenges.

As a result of the health crisis, Foliepop’s was hit with several delays such as a slower than expected construction process. Work on the cafe’s adjacent kitchen space lagged, according to Adrien Lavinge, director of marketing and Sigoure’s cousin.

Lavinge noted while the pandemic was certainly not the most ideal time to start a new business, he and his family never strayed from their goal.

“The reason why there’s all these new [restaurants] opening is because it was planned prior to the pandemic,” Lavigne said. “In our case, we weren’t going to stop. We’ve been working on it for two years ... we were just too committed.”

Foot traffic is still slow at the galleria, according to Lavigne, but customers and surrounding business owners have been excited about Foliepop’s. In part, Lavinge attributes some of that success to being a family-operated company.

“As a family business, it’s really been helpful for us to have that support. I think without it, [opening] would have been a lot harder,” Lavigne said.

In Lakeway, another family-owned restaurant recently started.

In October, Billy-Joe Hunt and his wife Suzanne opened The Gramercy, an upscale restaurant and bar with a 1920’s inspired ambiance.

Hunt left a corporate career to pursue his dream of owning a restaurant—a wish that has been at least 20 years in the making. When he discovered his family lineage tied to The Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan, inspiration struck.

Hunt signed the restaurant’s lease in January and not long after he heard early mentions of the coronavirus. If Hunt knew how substantial the pandemic’s impact would be, he said he likely would not have taken the chance.

“We may not have gone down that path at all ... but once the train starts rolling it takes a lot to stop it,” Hunt said. “At some point, you just have to make the call and say ‘we’re going to do it’ and collectively as a team, we just decided to go for it.”

While the pandemic has created a number of hurdles for new and soon-to-open eateries, established restaurant owners are facing their own set of challenges.

David Fernandez, the owner of Frog & the Bull in the Four Points area, opened the Iberian restaurant in November 2019 and said business was starting to pick up in early March. Just as sales began to trend upwards, the pandemic arrived and Travis County and Gov. Greg Abbott temporarily halted indoor dining.

With dining on hold, Fernandez said he had to furlough all but four employees and personally cover the restaurant’s expenses. Simultaneously, the restaurant shifted from not offering to-go service to becoming what Fernandez called a “food truck without wheels.”

“I’ve more or less had to make up the difference and let’s just say everyone’s getting paid but me,” Fernandez said.

To be eligible for the federal Paycheck Protection Program loans or Travis County’s Small Business Grant Program, a company had to be operating in March 2019. Since Frog & the Bull is less than a year old, Fernandez said he has not received any financial assistance.

Dine-in customers slowly returned as Abbott permitted restaurants to open with limited capacity, according to Fernandez. As of Sept. 21, restaurants are permitted to serve up to 75% occupancy, but Fernandez said while customers have slowly returned, there was no rush back to indoor dining.

According to Fernandez, business remains unpredictable. Frog & The Bull will experience a busy Friday followed by a very slow Friday the next week. The changes make it difficult for Fernandez to plan, which in return has created a costly business model.

As the holiday season approaches, restaurants traditionally see a dip in sales, which is something Fernandez said he will need to prepare for. He’s looking at ramping up marketing to boost his takeout service.

Despite a challenging first year in business, Fernandez’s goal hasn’t changed: to be recognized as one of the best restaurants in the Austin area.

“I’ve determined I’m not going down without a fight,” Fernandez said.“The moral of the story, it has been tough but we have survived. Things are, albeit painfully slowly, getting better, but at least they’re getting better.”
By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.


Photo of a woman receiving a vaccine
Travis County vaccine providers receive 46,540 doses week of March 1

Seton Medical Center in Austin received the largest allocation this week, with over 14,000 doses.

Beaux Medspa opened in West Lake Hills in February. (Courtesy Beaux Medspa)
Beaux Medspa opens on Bee Caves Road and more business news from the Lake Travis-Westlake region

Here is the most recent business news from the Lake Travis-Westlake area.

Reports surfaced Feb. 22 of dogs falling ill after swimming in Lake Travis. (Community Impact Newspaper Staff)
Blue-green algae toxic to animals found in Hudson Bend area of Lake Travis

Solid organic material was taken for testing from the edge of Travis Landing located on the east side of Hudson Bend. Those samples indicated the presence of algae and decaying algae containing cyanotoxin, which is fatal to dogs and other animals.

A new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could help expand vaccination availability in Travis County, according to local health officials. (Courtesy Pexels)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine could mean additional supply, easier distribution rollout in Travis County

If approved, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be a valuable weapon against the ongoing pandemic, according to local health officials.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

A tree's branches fell on a car in North Austin in the midst of Winter Storm Uri in February. With downed tree limbs and burst water lines causing property damage across Austin, the city has directed additional funds into programs to help some homeowners with emergency home repairs. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Still in crisis mode, Austin City Council initiates recovery following winter storm

With 200 to 400 apartment and condo complexes in Austin still without water, City Council is aiming to direct aid and relieve some of the financial burden felt by residents following the devastating winter storms.

Pet owners are advised to keep their dogs out of Lake Travis. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
UPDATE: Lake Travis water samples show no signs of toxic algae; dog owners still urged to keep pets out of water

An initial test of water samples from Lake Travis showed no signs of cyanotoxin or blue-green algae, a bacteria that is poisonous when consumed by dogs.

H-E-B will open a new location in the Oak Hill neighborhood of Southwest Austin in August. (Rendering courtesy H-E-B)
H-E-B to open in Oak Hill in Aug.; comedy club coming to The Domain and more news from February

Read business and community news from the past month from Central Texas.

Rollingwood City Council met Feb. 24 to discuss how Winter Storm Uri impacted the city's water system. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Rollingwood officials evaluate wastewater contractor following historic winter storm

“We were on the cusp of making a decision as to whether or not to cut off water service to our entire city or, alternatively, overflow our lift stations and flow raw sewage into direct channels into Lady Bird Lake,” Mayor Michael Dyson said during a Feb. 24 City Council meeting.

Jo's Coffee opened a North Austin location in January. (Courtesy Chad Wadsworth)
Jo's Coffee opens in Central Austin; new restaurant coming to Georgetown Square and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic. (Courtesy Qygen, Wikimedia Commons)
Fry's Electronics calls it quits after nearly 36 years in business

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic.