Dripping Springs, Southwest Austin restaurants pivot to grocery supply as community seeks produce

A photo of a pop-up grocery market with a sign that reads "Waterloo Stop and Shop"
Waterloo Ice House has opened pop-up markets in front of all its locations, including two in Southwest Austin. (Courtesy Waterloo Ice House)

Waterloo Ice House has opened pop-up markets in front of all its locations, including two in Southwest Austin. (Courtesy Waterloo Ice House)

Selling groceries and producing hand sanitizer was not what Daniel Barnes had in mind when he founded Treaty Oak Distilling 14 years ago, he said—but with the emergence of COVID-19 in Central Texas communities, Barnes, like many other Dripping Springs and Southwest Austin business owners, has had to adapt.

“We’re a very large, 28-acre ranch that’s built really for people coming out on the weekends and spending time,” Barnes said. “With all that’s going on, that’s not an option.”

Barnes’ distillery also serves as the site of Alice’s Restaurant, which began offering takeout and delivery options soon after initial social distancing measures were implemented in the Dripping Springs area. Treaty Oak’s whisky distilling operation also shifted toward the production of hand sanitizer around the same time. As local policies became more stringent and local residents encountered shortages of key items at regular grocery stores, Barnes said he began to consider other ways he could serve the community and prop up his business.

“We made the realization that our primary food supplier, US Foods, had resources,” Barnes said.

What followed was the Treaty Oak Market, which sells grocery items including fresh produce and other essential, in-demand products for curbside pickup and delivery. Additionally, Treaty Oak Market partnered with a local program called "School’s Out, Food’s In" to provide free groceries to 95 local families in need.

Treaty Oak is not alone in making the shift to grocery sales.

Jester King Brewery opened a drive-thru Country Store offering grocery staples in addition to the pizza, beer and wine perennially available at Jester King, with orders over $50 coming with a free roll of toilet paper; Waterloo Ice House has set up markets outside all its locations—including on Slaughter Lane and in Southpark Meadows.

Likewise, the Dripping Springs location of Austin Java has pioneered a call-in grocery operation sourced from the business’s primary food provider. General Manager Jeffrey Zuniga probed public interest in the service on social media last week, shortly after having to lay off much of his staff. His post, shared to a Dripping Springs neighborhood Facebook page, received around 800 reactions from community members, according to Zuniga, and sales were strong throughout the week.

“I’m tickled pink that it’s working,” he said.

Austin Java’s grocery service has spread to other locations in response to Zuniga’s success, including at the Menchaca Road location.

Zuniga said he hopes the service’s success will persist so that Austin Java is able to rehire the staff he had to let go when the cafe eventually reopens. In the meantime, he said he is glad to assist the community in a tangible way.

“My heart is with you,” Zuniga said of his neighbors and customers. “I’m in the same situation as everybody else.”
By Olivia Aldridge

Multi-Platform Journalist

Olivia hosts and produces Community Impact Newspaper's podcasts, The Austin Breakdown, The Houston Breakdown and The DFW Breakdown. She launched the podcasts after nearly three years as a reporter for the newspaper, covering public health, business, development and Travis County government for the Central Austin edition. Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas.