Before Gainesville’s first raw cookie dough bakery opened its doors at 11 a.m. Monday, a group of people were already waiting.
University of Florida seniors Madison Farrior and Veronica Pizzorni showed up a few minutes before it opened, excited about Do-Lish, a new bakery specializing in raw cookie dough.
Despite the changes facing small stores in Gainesville, Farrior, 22, said she hopes locally owned stores like Do-Lish can survive against corporations.
“I would hope that a business like this is able to sustain itself,” she said. “I just really like this part of town.”
Amid businesses closing and moving along West University, east of Southwest 13th Street, Do-Lish opened its doors Monday morning to a handful of people who lingered by its door at 1113 W. University. A Thai-style ice cream shop, Mr. Cool Ice Cream Roll, also opened up last week, sitting among empty buildings that the city of Gainesville and UF have promised to renovate as part of larger scale plans.
Chen Jian said he opened up his third Mr. Cool Ice Cream Roll near UF’s campus because of the appeal to Gainesville’s college-aged audience. Since opening, he said a majority of his customers have been students.
Jolie Nantz, owner of Do-Lish, is also not new to the entrepreneurial business.
The Alachua native’s family owned seven pizzerias previously; before that, it headed up an upscale consignment furnishing store. Like Jian, she believes the location is close enough to UF’s campus to draw students, but she acknowledged a concern over the turnover of businesses along West University and the draw of franchise corporations.
“There’s always that concern,” she said. But if that happens, she’s also looking at other places to expand in Gainesville.
“I hope by that point, we’re part of the fabric of UF. We’ll just seamlessly flow,” she said, adding that she’s hoping to add another location to cater to families.
Nantz’s optimism is one that Dave Bee, owner of the formerly known Schwinn Shop, hopes keeps his own business afloat.
After about 10 years running his locally owned bicycle shop at 1225 West University, Bee was forced to move after the rent continued to increase, to 919 West University, about .2 mile farther down the street from campus. He believes it will only continue to get more expensive, as the cost of rent continues to go up because of construction of The Standard, a high-rise apartment complex, and other nearby tenants such as a Publix Supermarket.
“There’s no mom-and-pop shop that will be able to afford that. It’s a challenge,” Bee said.
Locally owned stores like Burrito Bros. Company felt the blow directly, he said, with construction impairing the business to the point of closing. One of the biggest challenges Bee said small business owners face is if the city continues to force them further away from campus, the stores may not be able to afford rebuilding and restarting again.
His store, now called Gainesville Cycling, is still recovering from the move down West University.
As the city continues to lose small businesses, the city will lose its charm. He thinks small shops like Do-Lish and Mr. Cool Ice Cream Roll will be in trouble as the city and university continue to develop outward, but he hopes they make it.
“If you’re here long enough, you see a lot of change,” he said.
A majority of his business, when it was located closer to campus, came from people passing by. He’s holding onto hope that despite the move, they’ll still be able to capture that audience.
“It’s inevitable, that’s what change is,” he said. “Let’s hope Publix doesn’t start selling bicycles.”