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For here or to-go? Stillwater sees decline in restaurant retention

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Jack in the Box in Stillwater is permanently closed.

The City of Stillwater has recently had a surge of businesses coming and leaving for many reasons. 

Jack in the Box is the most recent business to shut down, as reported by The O’Colly on Feb. 7. The O’Colly has reached out there Jack in the Box at their corporate office for comment, but so far, no answer. 

There have been other stores, such as Zaxby’s, and the on-campus Jamba Juice that have closed down within the past year.

Project Manager of the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, Trenton Inselman said that Zaxby’s businesses in Stillwater were not the same as businesses as elsewhere. 

“The franchise owner owned multiple units across Oklahoma and ran into some issues. They had to shed most of their franchise locations and only kept the highest performing stores.” Inselman said.

“Other reasons could be corporate decisions closing newer stores that aren’t performing at the same rate as existing stores,” Inselman said. “In this case, it makes more sense for them to focus on the highly successful stores instead of the new stores that aren’t quite performing to their highest level.”

Stillwater native and Oklahoma State student, Brodie Myers, still remembers Chipotle replaced a personal favorite, Goldies.

“This fast-food Italian place, it had the best breadsticks in the world,” Myers said. “When that place closed down and Chipotle came in, I have not once set foot in Chipotle. Fazoli’s is my favorite restaurant on the planet.”  

When the Hall of Fame Book Trader closed down, Myers couldn’t believe it. As someone who didn’t go in just to buy books, but also OSU merchandise, losing this store was a surprise 

“I was shocked,” Myers said. “I understood that the paper textbook business was done, but I thought maybe they cut some employees, maybe if they only open a few days a week, they could survive with just the t-shirt and the hat.”

 In addition to routine and typical hardships in the restaurant business, the pandemic that has now lasted nearly a year has taken a large toll on the food industry welfare.

“Other times, market conditions outside companies control can cause them to shut down,” Insleman said. “During COVID, we have had a few concepts very close to opening a Stillwater location, but they are waiting until market conditions improve before taking on the risk of a new location.” 

In the process of getting another chain or non-franchise in town, there has to be a location to build off of.

“Certain brands like In-N-Out are not looking at the Stillwater market,” Inselman said. “Almost all brands will first open in Tulsa, OKC, Edmond and Midwest City.” “Stillwater is a little ways down the line for brand new concepts in Oklahoma.” 

Myers thinks that all of these closings could be an opportunity for just regional and even corporate markets to make their way onto Stillwater instead of local businesses. 

“I think it’s hard to start a place like Eskimo or one of the Joes,” Myers said. 

While that may happen, Stillwater has also had success with non-franchise businesses, such as Tacos Los Primos which replaced Pizza Hut, Firo Pizza which replaced Long John Silvers, Maria’s which replaced Marco’s Pizza, and The Beet Box Food Truck.