By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News
For Volente resident Bobbi Carr, the closing of Four Points’ Beau Kisses gift and clothing shop this week is a disappointment.
“You really can’t find this stuff in a big store,” she said. “It’s just so convenient to be here. We always go to the movie theater and it’s just another store closing. It’s very sad.”
Beau Kisses has been a staple for local shoppers since 2012. Although the Trails at 620 store shuttered on Sept. 15, the business’s Cedar Park and Katy sites will remain open, owner Lisa Brown confirmed.
Brown said she decided to close the site at 8300 N. RM 620, Ste. 600 about a month ago, after seeing that sales had been declining significantly at the Four Points store for quite some time. In 2017 and 2018, she said the store’s sales started declining, with that trend continuing into 2019.
Brown and the company’s buyer went to five retail markets in six weeks during January and February, searching for new, fresh and different inventory “to shake up its product mix” and drum up additional interest in the shop.
“So we had a really good plan coming off of market, and then COVID(-19) happened,” Brown said. “We weren’t able to take our shipments because we were closed.”
Although she provided customers with curbside pickups and private shopping appointments during the pandemic quarantine, those efforts didn’t help the Four Points location despite the company’s other two sites realizing a positive response.
Once the RM 620 store reopened May 1, Brown said it still didn’t see the foot traffic needed to keep its doors open. She said she thinks the corridor of residents drawn to the RM 620 store are more sensitive to COVID-19 quarantine measures than shoppers living in the other two locations.
“They aren’t getting out and shopping as much,” Brown said. “They’re just more cautious.”
Citing the recent closure of restaurant Napa Flats in the same shopping center and other eateries in the area, she said local vendors “just aren’t seeing people coming back.”
“For small businesses, if people want us to stay in business, you really have to get out and patronize, shop and eat,” Brown said.
The issue also derives, in part, from the Moviehouse & Eatery’s temporary closure to comply with COVID-19 regulations, she said.
“We would get a lot of overflow from the movie theater and we had an ad running there forever,” Brown said, adding shoppers would also walk in from the nearby restaurants as well. “That (Four Points shop) is definitely a destination store because there isn’t a whole lot of other shopping in that center.”
Brown has been in business for about 24 years. Her first store, Tis The Season, opened in the Lakeline Mall in 1998 but merged with Four Points’ Beau Kisses when it opened in November of 2012. She said some of her customers have been loyal shoppers for about 20 years.
The Katy Beau Kisses store opened earlier, in 2009, and the Cedar Park location opened in April of 2018. Brown said her original Lakeline shop customers had since moved to Leander and Liberty Hill, making the Cedar Park store an easier drive for them when it opened than trekking down congested RM 620.
Recent construction on RM 2222 may have also factored into the waning customer base at the Four Points store as well as the extreme traffic on RM 620, the only route to the shop, Brown said.
The store’s employees will be absorbed by the Cedar Park location, with one employee moving into the business’s marketing department, she said.
“We really had so many people that shopped with us that we were close to,” Brown said. “They were more than just customers to us. Knowing them for so many years and knowing their back stories—having babies or personal things—they became a part of Beau Kisses’ family. It’s hard to not be there to see them all of the time.
Brown and other business owners in her building said the site is under contract for sale. However, when contacted by the Four Points News, the building’s property management company representative Drew Ann Cable said she had “no comment” as to a pending sale. She offered to forward an email requesting the information to the building’s owner but that email was not responded to by press time.
Nearby shop owners share thoughts
Local resident Van Hilderbrand, who owns Hilderbrand Jewelers located next door to Beau Kisses, said business is slow but the shop is doing okay now that it’s back open following the late-spring easing of coronavirus restrictions.
“We lost a few places here: Napa Flats, Schlotzky’s and now Beau Kisses,” he said. “Hopefully, (management) will get it all together and get some new people coming in.”
The center has been open for about eight years and a new shopping complex, the Center at Four Points, is underway. Hilderbrand said he doesn’t see new stores opening within the Trails at 620.
Like Brown, he said he misses the crowd brought into the center by its movie theater.
“The movie theater brings in a lot of people,” Hilderbrand said. “It’s back open but it’s not at full capacity.”
Once the theater is working at full capacity, he said the venue will bring in the draw the vendors had grown accustomed to since the nearby shops advertise on the screen. He also said the marketing is beneficial to the center’s stores since some shops aren’t visible from RM 620.
New ideas for Trails
Hilderbrand said the building’s new owners “are bringing in new ideas and planning on doing a lot of stuff to this area.” He said the buyers are discussing making the parking lot more accessible and creating additional signage.
Located a few doors down from Beau Kisses, Plum Natural Nail & Skin Spa is about to celebrate its seven-year anniversary in the complex this month.
Owner Sally Parks said the salon’s revenue in 2020 is about 60% of its month-over-month revenue from 2019. The salon closed March 18 pursuant to coronavirus regulations and reopened in May.
“We were trending along our regular lines up until COVID(-19) hit,” she said. “March (revenue) slowed down significantly before we closed. It’s been difficult.”
According to Parks, the salon industry has been “decimated.” However, she attributes her shop’s ability to get through this downturn to making sure she is spending funds on “the right things” for its success. She also received Paycheck Protection Program funds from the federal government which she used to pay her employees.
“The first month we reopened, our payroll was covered,” Parks said. “We’re definitely not making money now; we’re surviving.”
Both Hilderbrand and Parks said their rents are very high in the shopping center, with Parks’ taxes increasing 300% since the spa opened in 2013. She is hoping for a tax rebate this year to help.
Parks advocates residents focus on patronizing local businesses and said many storefronts in the center are now closed.
“Almost everything in this complex is owned locally and we’re being picked off one by one,” she said.
Parks said she was shocked to find out Beau Kisses intended to close since her salon and the clothing/gift store cater to the same demographic, with her clients shopping at Beau Kisses before their pedicure or Beau Kisses customers finding the salon as they walk past it to Brown’s store.
“We share a lot of the same customers and have that marketing relationship just because of the proximity to each other,” she said.
Although Parks pushed Plum gift card purchases while the spa was closed, she said those gift card buyers are now coming in to redeem the certificates but not increasing the business’s revenue. However, the incentive got the salon through its roughest period, she said.
“We’re struggling just like everybody else,” she said. “Shop local, keep Austin weird. Keep Austin Weird isn’t just about the guys downtown with the mohawks. Keep Austin Weird is about supporting local businesses. Local businesses make Austin what it is. If people aren’t making a concerted, conscious effort to support their local businesses, they’re going to go away and they’re going away right now.”
Nancy Provolt, opened Big Frog Custom T-shirts & More in 2012, between the jewelry store and the salon. She said her clientele is pretty broad but has had a rough go of it since March, like all small businesses, and was especially impacted by the interruption of local youth sports in compliance with COVID-19 measures.
“We’re strong, we’ll definitely rebound from this,” Provolt said, adding that Vandegrift High School’s opening this week is a good sign for her and the center.