For Lisa Asvestas, owning a “local” business is a privilege and an opportunity.
“I think these kinds of businesses build community,” she said. “We need more of that.”
Asvestas owns 5 Points Local, a restaurant, yoga studio, and soon-to-be food market that officially opened its doors Tuesday morning. She and her staff served up coffee, juice, and breakfast tacos among other locally sourced, organic food items to a small group of community members and friends just northwest of downtown.
Anne Wolfe-Andersen, one of the managing partners at 5 Points, said the soft opening allowed the business to make a gradual introduction to the neighborhood.
“For the first day, we wanted people to know we were open, but we were also wanting to make sure we got the logistics down and make sure people get good service,” she said.
The restaurant is located in the historic Five Points neighborhood in a building that is more than 100 years old. Its brick walls have housed several local businesses over their lifetime. Most recently it was the vegetarian restaurant Green, which has since moved to locations in the Pearl Brewery and the Alon Town Centre.
Asvestas said the building’s history is one thing that continues to pique her interest.
“I did some research and it used to be owned by an English man with the last name of Bailey,” Asvestas said. “So the building used to be the Bailey Steam Bakery for about 20 years, and also was the Havana Club when the area was a bit more seedy.”
Asvestas is no stranger to the Five Points neighborhood. She opened her first restaurant, The Cove, in 2001 with her husband, Sam. She has since seen the area take shape over the years, and is eager to see it continue to grow.
“I’ve been in this neighborhood over 15 years and just in the past five years I’ve seen the revitalization of the area and I’m excited about it,” she said. “I see the potential it has.”
The Five Points neighborhood, loosely bounded by Interstate 35, Interstate 10, San Pedro Avenue, and San Pedro Springs Park, is one of the oldest in the city. It’s been a high-crime area for years, but is now feeling the effects of nearby developments downtown and at the Pearl that has brought younger residents to the area. Its stock of historic homes and vacant commercial buildings has provided a wealth of inspiration.
That revitalization, Asvestas said, can and should be done in a way that doesn’t threaten long-time Five Points residents.
“I really think we have the opportunity to do it right without alienating the people and the culture that already exist here,” she said.
During opening day, residents of the Five Points neighborhood and members of the greater San Antonio community sat around family style tables handcrafted from old mesquite trees by another Five Points resident and enjoyed lunch. Even those not keen on the current health trends shared in the restaurant’s offerings of gluten-free items.
“I’m not a gluten-free kind of guy,” said John Fahle, a local attorney and Eastside resident. “But it was good, I really liked it.”
Long-time Five Points residents Fabiola Quiroz and her husband, Alonzo, visited the restaurant to celebrate her birthday. The couple owns A1 Graphics and Laminating, the local business that made the signs for 5 Points. Quiroz said she sees new businesses like 5 Points Local as positive additions to the area.
“I think it’s nice that there’s a place in the neighborhood you can walk to and have some healthy food with some friends,” she said. “I think it’s very good what is happening in this area.”
The restaurant and yoga studio will continue to bring younger people to the area as well, Quiroz added.
“It’s also good for the students in the area to have a place like this,” she said, “which is good because they’re the ones who will keep building the neighborhood up in the future.”
Asvestas is concerned about the disconnect between the predominantly lower-income neighborhood and a healthy lifestyle – eating organically and practicing yoga – health often bows to affordability. She sees 5 Points Local as an opportunity to bridge the gap between the two by offering locally sourced, organic food, and yoga, at more affordable prices.
“If you’re looking for a place with clean food that people can afford, it’s just not out there,” she said. “So we hope to be able to bring in the whole community and not just a certain group of people in a certain economic group.”
5 Points Local will offer free yoga classes on Sundays at 11 a.m. and Avestas hopes to feature some menu items, like their “Karma Bowl,” on a “sliding scale” for customers.
“So you come in and it will say ‘$4-$8′, and if you only have four bucks today then you only pay four bucks.”
For 5 Points’ yoga schedule, click here.
The restaurant’s true essence of “local” goes even beyond the food, and is engrained in seemingly every aspect of the business. In the main dining room proudly stand two, wooden, family-style tables made by local carpenter, Maxwell Woodward, from a fallen mesquite tree. Another mesquite table with the word “Local” engraved on its face stood in the other dining room, a project done by local artisan Joe Short. Along with the signage, the lighting throughout the building was also done by a local business.
“We’ve really tried to bring in a lot of local artisans to be a part of the build-out process,” she said.
Asvestas said the future of the restaurant will hopefully involve a lot of community-centered initiatives, including free cooking classes to educate the community about healthy cooking and eating habits.
“I see a deep need for some education around food,” she said.
At the end of opening day, 5 Points closes at 2 p.m., Asvestas said she feels confident about taking part in the neighborhood’s gradual transformation.
“I just really feel a connection with this area, what it was in the past and what it can be,” she said. “I feel like the universe is moving us in this path and it’s the history of this area that is ready to blossom and really show itself.”
*Top image: The 5 Point Local kitchen is open for the public to see, adding to the local and clean feel. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.