KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
August 6, 2020
By Jennifer Miko
Local businesses need the community's help to survive. Even with Katy's new home construction and a growing population, many area businesses have struggled – either closing temporarily or permanently. Restaurants, service providers, and retail operators are relying now, more than ever, on residents to shop locally.
Jessica and JD Merritt, owners of Battlehops Brewing in Katy
Local Business Adapts to Stay Open
A little over a year ago Katy residents JD and Jessica Merritt opened Battlehops Brewing on Highway 90. In the last six months, they’ve had to shut down three times due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The couple’s original business concept was to open a brewery with a taproom and games library, combining two things that they love.
JD has been brewing for about 15 years, either as a homebrewer or at Battlehops. But to stay open, he and his wife Jessica have had to switch gears to offer their customers beer and board games to enjoy at home.
“Sticking around has meant drastic changes to our business model,” says Jessica Merritt. “We went from about 2% to-go sales to 100% practically overnight.”
Jessica Merritt said the process is a lot more complicated and costly to fill and seal and label a can.
“That's come with major costs and a lot of growing pains, but we're doing what we have to in order to stay in business,” says Jessica Merritt.
The Battlehops Brewing beer menu is always changing because they brew small batches and love to experiment. Currently, customers can try their Vienna lager (semi-sweet amber lager) and Chocolate Rye IPA (dark, roasty IPA brewed with chocolate and rye malts).
Unfortunately, the Merritts realize to-go sales alone will not sustain the business. The costs are high and the interest is low, so they’re adapting in other ways.
“We've introduced retail game sales and more food items so we can be a one-stop shop for game night,” says Jessica Merritt. “We're also working on distributing beer, root beer, and coffee beyond the brewery.”
Battlehops Brewing’s best-selling soda is the Wildflower Honey root beer. Plus, they feature two coffee options: Wirey Coyote Whipped Coffee, which is thick, bold, and sweet, and a nitro cold brew coffee, which Jessica describes as a super-aromatic light roast with creaminess from the nitro tap.
The Merritts are waiting for a response from the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission to reopen the brewery under new projections that put their sales at less than 51% alcohol. In the meantime, the Merritts plan to reopen Battlehops Brewing as a board game cafe with sodas, coffee, and snacks onsite (beer and wine to go only).
“It's been a tough year, but support from Katy is keeping the brewery alive,” says Jessica Merritt.
Local Dance Studio Sees Drop in Class Enrollment
In Katy’s Villagio Town Center, several businesses have recently closed, including the popular Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt and Grazia Italian Kitchen. Other tenants, like Connolly Dance Arts, are struggling to stay open.
For more than a decade, Connolly Dance Arts on Westheimer Parkway has provided a creative outlet for Katy dancers to learn ballet, tap, hip hop, drill team prep and more. The school’s annual production on The Nutcracker sells out every year, and the spring recital spans multiple days to accommodate all of the performances.
Owner Kathleen Connolly successfully operated a dance studio for 21 years before opening the current location. Due to the pandemic, she admits Connolly Dance Arts has lost two-thirds of its students because parents are afraid to bring their children there, especially when schools haven’t opened.
“We are doing our best to continue to provide a safe learning environment for our dancers,” says Kathleen Connolly.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Connolly Dance Arts has implemented strict measures to keep the students and staff safe.
Dancers and instructors are required to wear masks for the duration of all classes, and teachers will check each dancer’s temperature and sanitize their hands before they may enter the classroom. Dancers will also be assigned a position in the classroom, designated by a number on the floor, to maintain social distancing.
“The dancers were really missing the studio classes and I am glad we can provide some normalcy to them,” says Connolly.
The studio has also implemented specific drop-off and pick-up protocol, and closed the lobby waiting area to siblings and parents as well.
Starting August 17, the studio will offer both in-studio and Zoom instruction. For registration information, visit the Connolly Dance Arts website here.
“I have been in business for 31 years and would never have thought we would be shut down,” says Connolly. “The extended closures are hurting all small businesses. I encourage everyone to support small businesses at this crucial time.”
Popular Restaurant Appreciates Support of Community
Texas Borders Bar & Grill has been serving the Katy community since 1996. They originally opened on Fry Road, and later moved to the Westgreen location where they’ve been for 10 years. In 2016, owner Kellie Messer opened a second location on FM 1093 in Richmond.
Texas Borders Bar & Grill is currently serving at a 50% capacity per Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s mandate, but that still isn’t enough to cover expenses.
“I have strong ties and a presence in the Katy community, and the pandemic has been disastrous to the businesses,” says Kellie Messer.
Both locations are currently running with a skeleton crew to keep costs down. To-go sales have been steady, especially orders for the restaurants’ popular blackened wings which is their number one seller.
“At the Westgeen location, we have been blessed by having loyal long-time customers that have rallied to our support and have continued to patronize the business and bar especially,” says Messer.
In response to the pandemic, both restaurants require employees to wear masks at all times, have systems in place for cleaning and sanitizing, and have added an overnight crew that comes in to provide a complete overhaul cleaning service.
With to-go business here to stay, Texas Borders Bar & Grill is currently installing an in-house online ordering system for food and alcohol which Messer says should be running in the next week or so.
“Support local y’all,” says Messer. “It is much appreciated and needed to continue serving this great Katy community we live in.”
The list of Katy business affected by the pandemic continues to grow. The impact has been felt by small mom-and-pop establishments and national chains. See Katy Magazine's recent story that includes a list of local businesses that are temporarily or permanently closed.