Saturday night in Abilene, the doors to new and old businesses open up to welcome in the steady stream of consumers looking for something more. In a mile radius on any given night in downtown Abilene, one can choose to try something new between The Mill Winery, Abi Haus, the Neon Parrot or go back to older establishments like Barley Hoppers and Fat Boss’s Pub.
The opening of a particular type of nightclub is occurring in Abilene, a type that embraces the higher end of entertainment and is a welcome change to the existing locations and concert venues.
Moderately new places like The Mill Winery, Neon Parrot Lounge and the Winery at Willow Creek have embraced a different type of night entertainment.
Many former favorites like Barley Hoppers, Fat Boss’s Pub and Chelsea Street Pub are now outranked by this newer entertainment. The trend toward the dress-up, chic atmosphere, not-your-normal-night out type of bar has begun to emerge in Abilene.
Abilene Christian University alum and Texas A&M graduate, Andrea Schwikhard Robinson took over a former event center, renamed it The Majestic and opened up “swanky” new concert venue, the Neon Parrot Lounge, this November.
“What we have in terms of live music in Abilene is primarily a lot of Texas country and they play at grimy bars around town and some are even big name country musicians that come through and play,” said Robinson. “We try and raise the standard for what you can do and how you should dress. We have a lot of jazz and blues on the calendar right now.”
These places are breaking ground on the type of nightlife that will succeed in Abilene to attract a niche market where the market seemingly didn’t exist.
“Our original goal was to do the Neon Parrot and we were concerned after doing the market research,” said Robinson. “There was so little to compare it to and how the community would receive that and whether or not that could pay the bills and so we liked the idea of continuing as an event venue.”
Though it seems like the clientele may not have existed in Abilene, the problem posed was that there was no location for the clientele to go. This is what Kimberly Scalf and her husband encountered as they were traveling a lot outside of Abilene to visit wineries in Texas.
Now owners of The Winery at Willow Creek, the duo realized that a small winery with a small setup could be done in Abilene without their own vineyard or millions of dollars up front.
“At first, we thought it would take two or three years to show a profit,” said Scalf. “We were very prepared to take a loss in the beginning, based on what we heard from other business owners. But we managed to show a profit for the second year we were open.”
The target audience varies extensively for each location despite their seemingly similar nature. The Winery at Willow Creek sees almost entirely women as their primary demographic, with a winery not as appealing for the typical West Texas man.
Yet, most popular within the younger audience is The Mill Winery in downtown Abilene, a frequent spot for of-age college students and other residents of Abilene, especially young families.
Just opened early last May, the family-owned and operated event center and bar has live music and catered food every night they’re open, appealing to any age and demographic, with limited restriction.
“People have been dying to get out of their homes and to not be in places like Guitars and Cadillacs,” said manager Taylor Hayden. “It’s something that’s a little more at home and at the same once you step into our doors; it doesn’t feel like you’re in Abilene anymore.”
The trend of trendy is making room for new businesses and nightlife in Abilene and created its own market by filling a hole that consumers didn’t know was there.