The increase of small and growing businesses in Government Hill is creating parking woes for business owners across from Fort Sam Houston.
A recent clash between the owners of Breakaway Brewing Company and Folklores Coffee House is highlighting what can happen in tightly-packed San Antonio neighborhoods when small businesses thrive.
Government Hill is a historic district on San Antonio’s near East Side north of Interstate 35. Mostly filled with old and new single-family and multifamily homes, it’s experiencing rapid business growth along with gentrification in the areas next to Fort Sam Houston.
The businesses in the area are mostly new. Folklores Coffee House opened in 2019, bakery Alebrije opened in early 2022, Mexican street corn bar Elotitos opened its second location in Government Hill in December and Breakaway Brewing soft-launched in February.
“It’s coming alive,” Elotitos owner Jesus Arreaga said of the area. “It’s just two minutes from the Pearl, so it really does have a lot of potential to become an extension of what the Pearl is. I feel like we’re getting there. … But the parking lot is going to be an issue later on.”
Attorney John Taboada has been a tenant in the area for 21 years and said the proximity to Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, a secured military base to the north and east of many Government Hill businesses, adds to the parking issues.
On the north side of East Grayson Street, across the street from many of the businesses and along the walls of Fort Sam Houston, employees of the base park during regular business hours, Taboada said.
“If there was no fence, customers could park at Fort Sam,” he added. In addition, base employees park in spots that customers could use, Taboada said: “They steal spots from these businesses.”
The challenge echoes a similar drama in Tobin Hill, where neighborhood residents and proprietors along St. Mary’s Strip had different ideas about who should be allowed to park in the neighborhoods surrounding the popular nightlife location.
Government Hill is the latest example of how San Antonio’s growing pains are putting pressure on business owners to be good neighbors at the same time they’re trying to turn a profit.
“We’re super busy,” Arreaga explained. “The last thing on my mind is, ‘Let me warn [customers about where to park].’”
Breakaway Brewing vs. Folklores
Along East Grayson Street, parallel parking for Folklores Coffee House customers is limited to two hours, but owner Tatu Herrera said those time limits have not been enforced by the city of San Antonio in years.
The coffee shop also shares a smaller parking lot along North New Braunfels Avenue with other small businesses in the area, including Siempre Skate Shop, Sikesercise gym, Elotitos and Snake Hill Social Club.
Despite a handwritten note posted on the coffee shop’s front window, not all of Folklores’ customers are aware that smaller lot exists — and may accidentally park in the incorrect parking lot.
On Sunday, which was the day of Breakaway Brewing’s grand opening, owner Chris Pal-Freeman noticed an unknown vehicle parked in one of the nine designated Breakaway spots in the parking lot adjacent to his business.
Breakaway Brewery on East Grayson Street has nine designated parking spots in the adjacent parking lot. Credit: Brenda Bazán / San Antonio Report
Next door, Folklores Coffee House was open and had customers. Assuming it may have been one of them, Pal-Freeman walked two doors down to request anyone who had parked in a designated spot to move their car.
The brewery owner said he walked in and asked if anyone had parked there generally, but no one heard him. A former teacher and coach, Pal-Freeman said he used his “teacher voice” faster than he should have, raising his voice so everyone in the 700-square-foot coffee shop could hear him.
Everyone inside turned to look at him, Pal-Freeman said, then a barista said no one in the coffee shop was driving such car. On his way out, Pal-Freeman said he ran into the owners of the vehicle who were walking down the street and resolved the problem.
Neither of Folklores’ owners Tatu and Emilie Herrera were there when the incident occurred, but they took to social media to apologize to the customers and staff who were present.
“The owner from Breakaway Brewing went into our shop and started yelling at our customers in regard to parking,” Emilie Herrera said in a video posted to her personal Instagram page, which has more than 5,700 followers. “Sorry we’re having issues with them. … I hope it doesn’t deter you from coming to us again.”
The two businesses are inside the same shopping strip along East Grayson Street, but are owned by different local management companies.
Folklores Coffee House baristas Adrien O’Rear and Zoe Caballero said traffic in the area increases on weekends, the same days the Pearl shopping center hosts its popular farmer’s market.
“If you go down this road, all the way down Grayson, you see it,” O’Rear said. “That’s the Pearl — and I feel like the Pearl is reaching its way down here.”
For months, Taboada, who owns Taboada Law Firm, PLLC, said he’s reached out to City Council District 2 representatives to request pavement be added to Quitman Street to make 15-minute parking available there.
“All you need is 15 minutes to get your coffee, pan dulce and leave,” he said.
District 2 City Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez’s office did not comment on the parking dispute and enforcement issues.
Businesses working together
JJ Feik, president of Paradigm Management Company, which owns the leased space that the brewery and two other properties use, as well as the parking lot they share, said he doesn’t believe there are parking issues in the area — instead, he thinks it’s a problem in communication between the brewery and Folklores.
Feik said he’s never seen the parking strip along East Grayson Street full, and added that his management company builds parking lots for tenants based on demand.
Paradigm is also in the process of building a mixed-use but primarily multi-family development along Quitman Street.
“As neighborhoods grow and vibrancy increases, from time to time, parking has to be restudied,” Feik said. “Working with the city could be challenging from time to time, but it’s not impossible.”
Breakaway Brewing is the only tenant that has access to the larger parking lot shared with Paradigm’s other properties next door, Pal-Freeman said. Because it is the only business of theirs open on the weekends, Breakaway’s customers can use the lot as long as the neighboring tenants aren’t open.
Whether due to scarcity or communication, the public battle over parking has caused considerable headaches for Breakaway Brewing.
“I think there are some challenges here, especially when it does get busy,” Pal-Freeman said. “But at the same time, I’m just trying to work within the confines of the space I’m designated as part of my lease.”
The coffee shop owners are similarly frustrated, adding that the city actively enforcing the two-hour parking spots along East Grayson would help.
“Every day I called the city, every day I call parking and they always tell me, ‘I’ll send someone out here,’ and nobody ever comes around,” Tatu Herrera said.
Both business owners are on the same page about getting along and looking past the parking hiccups to keep Government Hill booming.
“I think its important for those of us who are small businesses to work together,” Pal-Freeman said. “We moved up here to build a community and to be a part of a community. The only way that does that is for businesses to work together and not to fight.”
Tatu Herrera agreed that the businesses will need to work together as the area continues to grow.
“It’s not even us. It’s anywhere in San Antonio,” he said. “We weren’t built to be big, and now that we are, it’s like, ‘How are we going to get along? How are we going to keep getting better and better?’”