February 2004 (v6 i4)
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Drag to become Thai and thrift store megaplex
Restaurants, vintage clothing stores vie for monopoly of Guadalupe
by Elizabeth Barksdale, Associate Editor

AUSTIN — Economic experts are predicting that if current trends continue, the Drag - the area of Guadalupe Street between MLK and 29th - will become a gigantic Thai restaurant/thrift store megaplex by the year 2005. This prediction is based on the observation that, while many businesses flounder on the Drag, Thai restaurants and vintage stores are tremendously successful. Indeed, they currently comprise 27% of the Drag's real estate.

"By late 2004, I wouldn't be surprised if these types of establishments constituted 77% of all retail and food outlets on this part of Guadalupe," predicts leading financial anylyst Harold Boyle. "By 2005, these businesses could very well dominate the Drag completely. Then the fads would wear off, and everything would go out of business." In response to this prediction, owners of the Thai restaurants and vintage stores have annouced plans for expansion, and some of these business have discussed negotiating a massive Thai/vintage merger in order to buy out other types of Drag establishments more quickly.

"We have a great opportunity, but we have to strategize," says Tim Juntasa, proprietor of Noodles and Stuff. "Although we're technically competitors, all the Thai restaurant owners have a kind of union. We're deliberating over whether to compete with the vintage stores or to join forces with them."

The vintage clothing powerhouse shows little signs of slowing down any time soon, and experts believe that vintage stores may soon dominate the Drag. Some stores are planning to become more specialized by doing things such as selling middle school spirit shirts exclusively or only carrying kitschy baseball caps.

"I'll be ready to rent some property on the Drag soon," says Tammy Bellaire, a local business woman. "My store will be called Denim Dreams, I think. I know it can compete with the six other vintage stores already on Guadalupe, because the market for this stuff isn't going away any time soon. And besides, my store will offer really unique stuff. Heck, I'm even going to put some of my own cruddy old shirts from the '70s up for sale and charge thirty bucks a pop for them."

Informal surveys of UT students would suggest that Thai eating establishments and stores that sell retro fashion enjoy almost equal popularity.

"Thai food is awesome. It's spicy and so much more exotic than say, Chinese or Mexican food," says Education sophomore Lindsay Meyerton. "To me the fact that there are so many Thai restaurants on the Drag really shows that Austin is really a city with a lot of diversity."

Meyerton also expressed strong preferences toward shopping for clothes at thrift stores over stores that sell contemporary clothing. "They're so cool and creative. I feel really original, like I have my own unique sense of style, when I wear an old Cub Scout shirt or a faded Bon Jovi shirt with some old-school mirrored shades."

In-fighting among Thai food proprietors has allowed the vintage stores to make steady gains.

"All types of Thai food are really popular, but the bubble tea clan wants to break off and compete with the noodle soup posse," said Juntasa. "But they're just denying how powerful the torn Levis tribe, the threadbare shirt clique, and the gaudy belt buckle gangs have become. I think we need to stick together, or else reach an agreement with the vintage stores so we can sell soup, tea, and old t-shirts together. That's a winning combination. We'd all be unstoppable."
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