As development continues in the Cy-Fair area, some business owners have looked for alternatives to the standard retail strip center. From Little Eclectic House to Frio Hill Country Grill, several businesses have opened in restored homes along the Mueschke Road corridor in recent years.
Business owners said while the renovation process can be expensive and time-consuming, it is worth having a site with character and history.
Gwen and Rick Franke opened Murdoch’s Backyard Pub in March 2016 on Mueschke Road after about a year of renovation work. Before construction of the Grand Parkway in Cy-Fair wrapped up, Gwen Franke said the couple was on the lookout for a unique location to open the restaurant.
“We just went looking along Mueschke Road knowing … this area was going to get busier,” she said.
The Frankes finalized the purchase of a 45-year-old, three-bedroom house in November 2014.
Rick Franke said he did most of the renovations himself and continues work on the property today to transform an old barn behind the restaurant into space for additional seating and a frozen custard shop.
Initial projects included removing a chain-link fence, an old shed and a pig barn in the backyard to accommodate ample outdoor patio seating.
“When we bought the property, I saw the potential and knew what we basically wanted to do ... but part of it you [figure out] while you’re going,” Rick said.
Not far from Murdoch’s, Trey Willis relocated his business—The Talent House—from an old house he rented on Mueschke Road to a Fenske Road log cabin last June when demand for music lessons outpaced capacity.
“We outgrew that space, and I didn’t want to keep dumping money into this place I didn’t own,” he said. “That house had character, so I didn’t want to lose that. I wanted to find a house that was close and had land to grow.”
Originally built in 1935, the home was planted from another location about 30 years ago and was converted to a log cabin in the early 2000s, Willis said.
Since purchasing the property in summer 2017, he said he has largely kept the original aesthetics while modernizing interior accents with new paint, flooring, furniture and lighting. The bulk of the renovations involved soundproofing and converting a few rooms in the house to 10 smaller rooms designed for one-on-one music instruction.
The Talent House launched six years ago with 40 students between two instructors and today has about 330 students and 14 teachers with plans to add two more rooms to increase capacity. Ultimately, Willis said he would like to build additional music production space on-site where students can record music.
Room to grow
Although The Talent House has expanded over time, Willis said the operation is still small enough to get to know the customers. He said he believes nearby residential growth will help the business continue to flourish, but he hopes to maintain a quiet, creative space for students to learn.
“It feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but you’re still five minutes away from Target,” he said. “It’s kind of nice to have all this open, beautiful space, but the development is moving out here.”
Rick Franke agreed the development of west Cypress is evident, and he said he has seen longtime residents sell their properties to make a profit.
“I’ve already had offers for the property for much more than I paid, but I really don’t have any intent to sell any part of it,” he said. “The goal is to give people a little bit of a retreat in this area because I think eventually there’s not going to be too many retreats.”