For some Austin citizens, one letter on a street sign could now cost them tens of thousands of dollars.
Last week, the Austin City Council discussed changing one vowel in the name of a famed local street. Manchaca Road, an eight-mile artery south of downtown, was the subject of the costly and controversial debate.
A small group of citizens proposed changing the road, colloquially known as “Manchac,” to “Menchaca” because of a perceived misspelling of a Texian Army officer’s name. The leading supporter of the effort, retired Judge Bob Perkins, claimed “Manchaca” was supposed to be named after Captain Jose Antonio Menchaca, who fought in the Texas Revolution.
However, the origin of the road’s name remains disputed, as there are no historical documents that point to Menchaca being the sole namesake. During the council meeting, some pointed to historical maps that contain the current “Manchaca” spelling, and some even claimed the word came from Choctaw descent.
One local business owner, Robert Amoroso, testified that there was no evidence, maps, or old newspaper articles that said Captain Menchaca visited Manchaca Springs, the area near the modern road where the officer allegedly encamped.
“Capt. Menchaca was an intelligent, bilingual, well-traveled officer of the army and later mayor pro tem in San Antonio,” said Amoroso, “Yet he never mentioned the springs or the use of his name, not even in his own extensive memoirs.”
Yet the debate has much more costly implications than just changing an “a” to an “e” on a sign.
Amoroso, who owns Manchaca Village Veterinary, said his 43-year-old family business will face huge costs if the street is renamed. He said all rebranding costs such as new exterior signs, website and email addresses, uniform embroidery, and marketing materials would total over $49,000.
“[That doesn’t include] the most important long-term effects that cannot be monetized, such as online presence, search relevancy, and brand recognition, which we have spent many years building,” he said.
Amoroso also criticized the city’s lack of public engagement on the decision, saying he reached out to other local businesses along the road and most were not even aware the change was being considered. The city had begun surveying over 1,700 property owners and citizens along Manchaca, but only 63 responded. 52 of those said they opposed renaming the street.
“These small businesses are tax-paying, job-creating pillars of the community, and unlike the proponents of this bill, we are the ones being affected by this,” Amoroso said. “To some people it’s just a change in letter, but to a small business in a competitive market, with small margins and rising property taxes, who cares about the details and spends a great deal of time protecting our brand and staying solid so we can hire people, make a living, and serve the pet community with integrity, small changes are a big deal.”
In the end, the city council still voted overwhelmingly to rename the street. The change will take effect in November.