New grocery store set to open on East Side signals more growth in area

Royal Blue Grocery to open new location in Dignowity Hill neighborhood; Current coffee shop owner welcomes more businesses in area

The East Side is growing as new businesses are looking to make a name for themselves and draw more customers to the area. An Austin-based grocery store is the latest business to announce it will call the East Side home soon.

SAN ANTONIO – The East Side is growing as new businesses work to make a name for themselves and draw more customers to the area.

Austin-based Royal Blue Grocery recently announced it would open a new location in the Dignowity Hill neighborhood.

James Mireles, the owner of Pulp Coffee Roasters on Chestnut Street, said more development and businesses are a positive sign for growth in the area. He opened his business six years ago.

“My wife and I decided this is going to be our home ground. ‘The price is affordable. We can give it a shot,’” said Mireles.

Mireles started as a wholesale retailer, but as more people moved to the East Side, he saw the chance to sell directly to customers.

“We’re still in that hybrid mode and hope to be in the retail outlets so people can actually try things they’ve never tried before,” said Mireles.

Mireles worked with the nonprofit organization San Antonio for Growth on the East Side, or SAGE, to help expand his business.

“I want to recruit businesses that want to grow, and I want this community to help those businesses. But it’s only through making the community bigger, better and stronger that we’re able to achieve that,” said Robert Melvin, SAGE CEO and President. “Royal Blue is an example of a small boutique grocery store that has the flexibility of kind of learning the market.”

Melvin said SAGE not only wants these businesses to succeed, but the organization also wants to train people to work there. He pointed to their partnership with St. Philip’s College, which just built three new workforce training centers.

“St. Philip’s College is critical because they are that institution that can provide a pathway,” said Melvin. “Development and workforce training is how we give individuals an opportunity to participate.”

Pulp Coffee is an example of the small business growth on the East Side. Mireles said he started with a 600-square-foot space and has expanded to a 2,000-square-foot facility and a tasting room.

“We just hope to see the East Side, West Side and South Side -- the close pockets of downtown -- come back to life,” said Mireles.

Since 2013, SAGE has awarded $1.4 million to more than 170 businesses on the East Side for various improvements and to keep owners in the area.

“We’re going to be made up of San Antonio businesses, homegrown, and it’s going to create a culture that can be modeled everywhere else, but it’s going to start here,” said Melvin.

Melvin added it’s time to remove the stigma and myths associated with the East Side in the past.

“We’re a community full of families and the gateway into the city of San Antonio,” said Melvin. “It needs to be a representation of who and what we are as a community. We are that beautifully blended tapestry, culture, music, language and food. So we need to celebrate that.”

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About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.