INDIANAPOLIS — At least two local businesses in downtown Indianapolis’ Fountain Square neighborhood are closing their doors for good this month.

“It’s been really hard this year specifically,” said Kristina Mazza, owner of Hoagies and Hops – an authentic cheesesteak restaurant located inside Chilly Water in Fountain Square.

Mazza said she made the difficult decision to close the business’s Fletcher Place location on Friday, December 31 due to staffing challenges, higher costs, and declining foot traffic.

“We are extremely grateful for the experience we had serving our amazing downtown customers,” said a social media post shared on Monday.

The restaurant along Virginia Avenue marked the second location for Hoagies and Hops and had only been open for ten short months. Mazza said the newest location opened back in February in the midst of the pandemic.

“I mean obviously we took a gigantic risk,” said Mazza. “Staffing has probably been the most stressful.”

Mazza said it was not until September that staffing levels began balancing out. However she said the downtown foot traffic she once knew has not returned.

“Not enough offices are filled at Lilly or other businesses downtown,” said Mazza. “The fact that there’s more and more conventions it is slowly getting there but now that we’re getting into winter time – the next three months are usually pretty tough for all restaurants.”

Further along Virginia Avenue, Pure Eatery also announced it will be closing at the end of this month after more than a decade in the Fountain Square neighborhood.

According to the latest data from Downtown Indy Inc., more than 40 businesses have closed so far in 2021. On the other hand, data also shows nearly 70 businesses have opened in downtown Indianapolis in the same timeframe.

“I think a lot of those [new businesses] come from The Amp and Bottleworks,” said Allie Moffett, a public relations and communications manager for Downtown Indy Inc. “Those [locations] have allowed smaller businesses to have a downtown address which has been wonderful.”

Despite the growing opportunities, business owners said the declining foot traffic has been the largest hurdle to overcome and she does not anticipate it will bounce back quickly.

Downtown Indy Inc. estimates fewer than 50% of employees have returned to their downtown offices.

“Every week I still feel like I hear a new location opening, but at the same time I feel like just recently I’m starting to hear more closures,” said Mazza. “I just want to focus on my new promotions and cross-promotions and partnerships with other people in the community. Keep building those and keep attracting people to my main location.”

Mazza said Hoagies and Hops in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood continues to be her most profitable location and she hopes to start a food truck by 2022.

On Sunday December 19, Mazza said she plans to host a food drive to collect non-perishable donations for a local pantry. Mazza said Hoosiers of all ages are encouraged to stop by for a chance to patronize a local business while supporting a good cause.

To learn more about the future Hoagies and Hops food truck, or to learn more about the upcoming food drive, click here.