Denton lost several beloved businesses this year as tough restrictions and mandated closures impacted important sections of our economy, from the service industry to live music venues.
While many found ways to adapt, here’s a look at how the business landscape changed in 2020.
The first major community blow of the pandemic came when SCRAP Denton announced it was struggling to pay rent and subsequently announced the creative reuse shop would be closing permanently. Although a nonprofit, SCRAP’s closure was Denton’s first major local storefront to shutter from COVID-19 in June. The store and workspace opened in 2012.
The following month, Free Play Denton, an arcade and craft beer bar, announced it would close. The popular spot was full of retro arcade and pinball games, but owners couldn’t work out a deal to stay in the spot with the landlord. Throughout the year, Denton lost other hands-on, activity-driven businesses such as Escaping the Square, the Breakroom and Source Gaming Lounge.
Some businesses found ways to pivot to online, taking away the in-store browsing experience but keeping the business sustainable through the pandemic: Mad World Records, Freaks and Geeks and Popcorn Junction. Others closed their shops in Denton but still had other locations and online stores: Denton Trading Co. shut its doors, but Roanoke Trading Co. is still around, and Market on Oak maintains a storefront in Grapevine.
Some of the empty storefronts have new life, though. Downtown has added More Fun Toys!, just a few doors down from its sister business, More Fun Comics & Games. There’s also a new gift shop on the Square, 3 Wishes Market, and Tried and True Salon is now open on Oak Street. And just east of the Square, Gangnam Chicken, a Korean fried chicken restaurant, is now open.
Juice Lab also had to close its storefront amid the pandemic but was able to pivot, and the business is now operating in a food truck parked at Mulberry Street Cantina.
We also lost two major LGBTQ-friendly spaces: Wine Squared and Crossroads Cocktails and Karaoke. While neither were expressly gay bars, both would host queer-friendly events, from drag shows to pride nights.
With the adversity bars faced this year, Vinyl Lounge defied all odds and was able to open for business in October. The cocktail bar features ’60s- and ’70s-inspired decor and boasts a diverse collection of over 1,600 vinyl records.
The Cookie Crave, a locally owned, allergy-friendly cookie shop, also opened its doors amid the pandemic.
Herf’s Denton County Taphouse, the first bar in the Rayzor Ranch area, opened just under two weeks after Denton County reported the first confirmed case of the coronavirus. The craft beer bar is open and serving curated craft beers, ciders and wines as well as growlers to go.
Some beloved restaurants closed permanently in 2020: Cartwright’s Cafe (although Cartwright’s Ranch House remains open), Swine and Garden food truck and Luigi’s Italian Restaurant, though the latter was strategic as the restaurant has rebranded itself as North Point Cafe. A slew of chain restaurants also closed their doors: Bone Daddy’s, Johnny Carino’s, Zoës Kitchen and Potbelly Sandwich Shop.
Denton also lost what was named one of the best coffee shops in America by Food & Wine magazine: Cryptozoology. The north side of town did get the first coffee shop in the Idiot’s Hill area, The Mug. The mobile trailer serves up coffee and espresso drinks as well as teas and kid-friendly options.
Others managed to find ways to still open. Pepitas, an all-vegan restaurant, was planned to be a full restaurant but is now co-located with sister business Milpa Cantina. In other vegan news, Denton also gained Mashup Market, an all-vegan grocery shop with fresh, frozen and pantry items.
With bars changing licenses to operate as restaurants, food trucks became an integral part of the economy reopening. In Denton, we added a healthy number, including Mudea’s Cafe, Streets Eats Catering, MiSeoul and Feta’s gyro truck.