Lula Jane’s, an iconic East Waco breakfast and lunch spot, closed for good this past Thanksgiving.
For 9 years, Lula Jane’s provided a place for fresh food and community gathering. Notably, its farm-to-table service was the first of its kind in Waco, with ingredients locally grown and sourced.
Many are the times I passed through this restaurant’s doors, and I will sincerely miss its delicious breakfast pies. However, its legacy remains. Lula Jane’s was a model of how local businesses can positively impact their surrounding communities.
For one, it was a space where people could gather and connect with each other. Walking into Lula Jane’s for the first time was like a breath of fresh air — I could feel the care and passion that had been poured into building this institution, and that feeling permeated my time there.
As I sat with my friends, I was grateful for the opportunity to enjoy their company in this unique location. Such is part of the appeal of small businesses like Lula Jane’s: they provide a personalized experience that cannot be replicated.
Nancy Grayson, the former owner and founder of Lula Jane’s, also spoke on how she deliberately set her prices at a level affordable to the East Waco community. She opted to keep her prices lower in the interest of her customers.
This is a shining example of integrity in business and an important reminder of the myriad ways in which small businesses can benefit others.
Lula Jane’s was not alone in its efforts to give back to the community. Other Wacoan cafes and breakfast spots with notable positive impacts include World Cup Café, a part of Mission Waco Mission World; and Bitty and Beau’s Coffee, which employs adults with developmental disabilities.
Lula Jane’s practice of buying ingredients from local sources is another example of its far-reaching impact.
Grayson cited staffing shortages, a national trend, as the catalyst for her restaurant’s closure.
In a time where many small businesses like Lula Jane’s are still struggling to recover from the economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to shop local.
According to one study, 48% of money spent at locally-owned business remains within the local economy — perhaps even more. Compare this to 14% for chain businesses. This is in part because independent businesses are more likely to hire local residents, buy from local suppliers, and donate to local charities.
Indeed, small businesses contribute 250% more than larger businesses to local non-profit organizations. In a city like Waco, whose poverty rate is 26.8%, far above the national average, buying local can be especially meaningful. Your money does not merely benefit the business owners — it contributes to a cash flow that benefits the community at large.
As many of us Baylor students return to campus after Christmas break, the best way to honor Lula Jane’s legacy may be to support the small businesses that make Waco special.