Downtown McKinney businesses renovate, expand to address changing demographics

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Talk to a handful of business owners in downtown McKinney, and many will say the area is changing. New, niche businesses are opening; some businesses are relocating to be closer to the heart of The Square; and others are expanding or renovating their space.

One reason for these changes is due to the altering demographics seen in downtown, as business owners say they are noticing a younger crowd visiting the area. Many downtown McKinney businesses used to close at 5 p.m., but now the streets get busy at that time as more people now refer to downtown as a destination.

Owner of Spoons Cafe Karen Klassen took advantage of the changing trend in downtown by renovating what was the overflow seating at Spoons to open a place for adults called The Garage, 101 E. Louisiana St., McKinney.

“I saw at nighttime the business had changed so much, so the back room wouldn’t fill up,” she said. “… I saw what was going on and the transition of downtown McKinney, and I really felt the need for a place to do a quieter venue, still serve some really good comfort foods in smaller portions and some really great craft cocktails for the ‘grownup’ Spoons people.”

In addition to businesses changing, the footprint of downtown is expanding with the opening of mixed-use developments and parking garages and some businesses shifting east of The Square across Hwy. 5.

Amy Rosenthal, director of McKinney Main Street and the McKinney Performing Arts Center, said a successful downtown needs three components—workforce, retail and residential—all of which make up downtown McKinney.

Downtown also received state recognition in September and is now one of 40 designated cultural districts in Texas.

“[Being a Cultural District] says that we have things happening in our downtown, buildings and artists and the activities, that are worthy of state recognition,” Rosenthal said. “… I think more than anything it’s just a badge of honor that says what’s happening here is worthy of attention.”

New clientele

Downtown McKinney is offering increasingly varied options for visitors.

Shoppers will find fewer antique stores in the area and more niche businesses, such as White Rock Soap Gallery, The Magic of Santa or the soon-to-open Spice & Tea Merchants.

“I think that there’s a natural cycle that kind of happens … as consumers change and trends change,” said Aaron Werner, McKinney Main Street program coordinator. “There [was]a time where downtown was the place you went for antique stores. And you can see just by walking around that we still have our key staple antique stores, but it’s not an antique destination anymore.”

Many of these new businesses bring a new vibe and spirit to downtown, Werner said.

The Magic of Santa, 215 N. Kentucky St., opened Sept. 28. The business offers holiday decor and high-end photography sessions with Santa Claus. The photography studio was previously located in Adriatica Village, but co-owners Chris and Lori Fritchie said they added the retail store because it seems like a natural fit for downtown.

“We wanted a place that we felt complemented the [photography]that I do, and we felt that the typical person that visited downtown McKinney was the person that would appreciate art,” Chris Fritchie said. “It just felt like it was a place we were kind of meant to be.”

Chris Fritchie said many clients from the photography studio travel for portraits with Santa and love the idea of coming to downtown McKinney and making it a weekend getaway.

Location and appearance

Not all downtown businesses are new, however. Texas Monkey Business, which has been in business for two and a half years in downtown, moved in August two storefronts closer to the heart of The Square.

“It was a building double the size [of our previous space], and we’ve definitely seen the advantages of just moving a half of [a]block—more foot traffic and people coming down here for years [who]never knew you were down there,” Owner Jim Latino said.

Latino also said he is within the festival boundaries, which allows for more foot traffic during major events. Prior to moving Texas Monkey Business was located at 301 E. Louisiana St.—one intersection east of where the festival boundaries end.

In addition to relocating for more foot traffic, some buildings and businesses are renovating their exterior hoping to add a fresh look to the area.

The McKinney Performing Arts Center building was revitalized in recent months, including window repair and exterior brick cleaning. Renovations are also underway at 102 N. Tennessee St. to replace windows, redo stucco, paint the facade and put in a new front door.

In addition to these buildings adding a fresh look to their exteriors, Rosenthal and McKinney Main Street are working to put lights on the city’s water tower near downtown.

Lighting the water tower will showcase McKinney and should help propel night life in downtown, Rosenthal said. Lights on the tower are expected to be complete in time for Home for the Holidays on Nov. 23, Rosenthal said.

Expanding footprint

Downtown McKinney’s footprint is also expanding with the addition of new buildings and staple businesses moving farther from The Square.

New construction includes mixed-use development Davis at the Square, former council member Don Day’s building at 205 W. Louisiana St., Playful’s new headquarters and a new parking garage on Herndon Street.

“We used to call ourselves The Square,” Rosenthal said. “It’s not just The Square; it really is this whole area that helps define Historic Downtown McKinney.”

Local Yocal is hoping to continue expanding downtown’s footprint by opening a barbecue restaurant across Hwy. 5. The restaurant opened Oct. 2 in a 15,000-square-foot building, and Local Yocal’s butcher shop on Tennessee Street will relocate east of Hwy. 5 in the spring, Local Yocal owner Matt Hamilton said.

“We feel like this side of Hwy. 5 is pending massive development over the next 10 years,” Local Yocal Chief Operating Officer Steve Carlson said.

The next opportunity and challenge facing downtown is connecting storefronts east of Hwy. 5 with businesses located west of the roadway. Assistant City Manager Barry Shelton said the city is working to make Hwy. 5 safe and walkable.

Other future growth plans for downtown McKinney are on the horizon, including more new construction—residential and commercial—and the potential for a new City Hall building near downtown, Shelton said.

“There have been a couple pre-development meetings,” Shelton said. “I don’t know that they have submitted plans, but we do have people kicking the tire, so to speak, looking at projects in and around downtown that would be new construction. I think the success [of downtown]is bringing more success.”


A changing downtown

Downtown McKinney has seen at least 19 new businesses since January with more businesses expected to open soon. Over the past year businesses have also relocated, renovated or expanded their footprint. Here is a noncomprehensive map of new, closed, coming soon, renovated, new ownership and more in Historic Downtown McKinney’s Cultural District.

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Cassidy Ritter
Cassidy graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 with a degree in Journalism and a double minor in business and global studies. She has worked as a reporter and editor for publications in Kansas, Colorado and Australia. She was hired as senior reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's Plano edition in August 2016. Less than a year later, she took the role of editor for the McKinney edition.
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