At 1:17 a.m., the line is a twenty minute wait. Almost every table is filled with college students from ACU, Hardin Simmons and McMurry. Several cops sit together to make sure nothing gets out of control.
Business is booming as usual at Whataburger.
But what else are college students supposed to do after midnight? Or even after 10 p.m.? The sad fact is, Whataburger has a monopoly on Abilene night life.
Yes, the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit is delicious. But a town with almost 9,000 hungry college students deserves more than that.
However, this isn’t just about the college students. This is about good business. If Whataburger is any indication of what this town wants, then there is a large amount of money just waiting to be made.
But students don’t just want quantity. We want quality. More Whataburgers aren’t the answer. We crave a certain atmosphere.
And Abilene has a downtown that has the potential to give us that.
There are already some businesses that display downtown’s potential.
Monks Coffee Shop with its eclectic furniture, surprisingly trendy live music and snarky slogan– “keep Abilene boring”– creates an atmosphere that successfully reflects what students are looking for.
Hickory Street Cafe is always crammed full of female college students looking for delicious sandwiches and tea and a comfortable European atmosphere.
Betty & June is a women’s clothing boutique with high prices but carries extremely tasteful clothes and accessories. It stands out from the other usual Abilene boutiques that provide dresses that should only be worn with boots.
Abi-Haus, celebrating its opening today, is a restaurant with “honest American food” and a modern, typographic interior. Abi-Haus is co-owned by ACU art professor Ryan Feerer who understands the market the colleges provide. The restaurant will create the atmosphere college students want until 1 a.m. on Fridays. He sees the potential in downtown Abilene.
It’s historic. It has character. It should be hopping.
With higher-quality things to do and to eat, the universities will have more leverage to get higher-quality students and professors.
The students who choose Abilene do it purely because their desire to attend these schools is greater than their disdain for the town. If Abilene is revitalized, then potential students won’t have to sacrifice the quality experience of ACU for a quality college-town culture.
Abilene is brimming with potential. And the town is slowly realizing that. It’s like a pre-teen who has exited puberty and hasn’t realized his voice isn’t cracking anymore. Abilene just needs a little confidence.
Until then, Whataburger will continue to be extremely profitable.
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