After 15 years of business in Aggieville, Pita Pit has announced its closure as of November 2nd, 2018. The quick-serve restaurant which offered a healthier alternative to nearby fast-food options and was the 35th franchisee-owned location of the Canada-based company.
Area businessman, Randy Martin, has owned and operated Pita Pit since 2009. Martin’s franchise agreement with Pita Pit ended earlier this year and he had been operating the restaurant on a month-to-month agreement with Pita Pit. “There’s a possibility that someone may still come along before the end of the year and want to buy the business but for me, the business model just isn’t working the way I need it to and I’ve decided to close it,” said Martin.
Martin indicated a variety of changes, both in customer behavior and in the Aggieville entertainment district, as primary reasons for the businesses declining sales.
“There’s just a lot of pressures. A restaurant is a very challenging thing to run profitably. There’s so much change going on in Aggieville right now. It just became a bit of a struggle to make that business model work and so I’ve decided I’m going to put my energies and resources elsewhere.”
According to the City of Manhattan, in 2016, Aggieville began a year-long planning process which “resulted in a comprehensive and cohesive planning document with a clear direction for future development and civic improvements in the district, addressing and balancing the needs and desires of the district and the Manhattan community.”
Martin indicated that many of the challenges he experienced in operating Pita Pit apply to all restaurants and non-bar businesses. “Parking problems have to be addressed in Aggieville. They need to build the garage. They should have built the garage already and it ought to be as centrally located as possible,” said Martin when asked about the future of the district and the improvements needed to make the area more business friendly.
“The entertainment district has to be more than just bars. We need to have businesses that can invest in and improve the buildings and properties, bring new ideas and fresh activities to supplement and provide alternatives to the bar businesses particularly during daytime business hours,” Martin added.
Over the last several years, retail stores like Varney’s and Big Poppi Bicycle Company and restaurants like Pita Pit, Dancing Ganesha, Pizza Hut, and PepperJax Grill, have all somewhat suddenly closed. Though none of these closures have created vacant real estate as new businesses have moved in to these locations, the frequent turnover of retail and restaurant businesses creates unease about the future of non-bar businesses in the district, especially when considering the significant future planning and investment slated to be made in the district.
While the future of a business, residential, and pedestrian-friendly Aggieville may be a shared vision, the path to getting there remains rocky, laden with challenges for the current businesses in the district today.