Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Local Business - Only In Austin

30 Businesses You’ll See No Where Else BUT Austin
Toy Joy will bring you back to your childhood in a split second. (photo by Jay West)

There’s a nice high-end shopping center in Austin that recently had a billboard up which read something to the effect of “40 Stores You’ll Find Nowhere Else In Austin.” I’ll give musician Dave Madden credit for pointing it out via Facebook. That got me to thinking… We’re glad to have these nice chain stores in Austin and having them all in one place
is just wonderful. BUT… my thoughts went to how many stores we have in Austin that you’ll find nowhere else in the world. So, I put it out there and asked for contributors to write about them and Veronica Garcia, Arnold Wells, Rob Greenamyer, Deborah K. Coley and Barbara Touey answered the call.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of Austin originals. We decided (for the most part) to ignore restaurants as we already have a great Restaurant Guide (this story wraps through it). And these 30 reflect the opinions of our contributors, so if your favorite Austin original isn’t on here it’s not that we don’t agree, because we do.

This is a representative sample, if you will, of the kind of places that help keep Austin weird, wired, clothed, decorated, and most of all… original. – Sean Claes (Owner, INsite Magazine)

Allen’s Boots
1522 South Congress Avenue • 447-1413

Under the big red boot on South Congress you can find over 4,000 pairs of boots from the mundane to the exotic… from $25 to $2,500. You don’t need a pair of boots to live in Austin, but if you are in the market for a pair this is where Austin has been getting them since 1977. They’ve got a full line of western wear and cowboy hats as well. Walk in and mosey out. – Sean Claes

Austin Art Glass
1608 South Congress Avenue • 916-4527

Shiny objects abound at this artful establishment that opened its doors in 2003. Among the finds are treasures that will inspire awe and admiration for their creator.

These aren’t ordinary vases and boring old glasses. These stunning pieces of artwork make excellent gifts and conversation pieces for any home. The fine craftsmanship is evident in the pieces, ranging from bowls and glasses to custom designs.

Artist and owner Aaron Gross offer classes and workshops on the techniques he’s mastered so well. You can watch or participate in the process from start to finish.

Fine art is a big part of Austin culture and this place has done an excellent job of meshing the unique with the traditional. –Veronica Garcia

Austin Homebrew Supply
9129 Metric Blvd • 300-BREW

Austin Homebrew Supply is one of the largest clearinghouses for anything that has to do with DIY brewing. In addition to being a huge online retailer for wine and beer brewing equipment and ingredients, these guys have been serving it up in Austin since 1991. From your first kit to the most advance brewing technology available to the do it yourselfer, this is the spot and its all Austin baby! – Arnold Wells

Bass Emporium
1720 West Anderson Lane • 691-7445

What other city has a music scene that could support a boutique shop dedicated exclusively to the bass guitar? This oft-shortchanged and yet absolutely essential component to nearly every great band gets its due at John Files' eight-years-open Bass Emporium, where any pluckers and slappers worth their bottom end can geek out to their thumping hearts' content. Hard-to-find brands like Roscoe, Lakland, Eden, and Ashdown are represented, as well as acoustic basses, bass pedals, and other bass-specific paraphernalia. -- Rob Greenamyer

Big Top Candy Shop
1706 South Congress Avenue • 462-2220

Chocolate. Covered. Bacon. Need we say more? Well, yes, because as good as that porcine pleasure is, you’re only limited by your imagination in this wonderful store brimming with decadent delights. Big Top has some of the best candy in Austin and is getting national recognition as well.

You’ve got to love a place that advertises “Candy Galore” on the front door. It delivers on its promise with rows and rows of candy bins and jars of confectionary marvels. The circus theme adds to the nostalgic setting and gets you in the mood for snacking.

Big Top features vintage candy that will take you back to your childhood, including Pop Rocks, candy cigarettes and Zagnut bars. The shop also features a soda fountain with entertaining soda jerks who can whip up just about any concoction you can come up with.

Owner Brandon Hodge opened Big Top in 2007 next to his other store Monkey See, Monkey Do. And he’s been satisfying sweet teeth from all over the world ever since. –Veronica Garcia

Birds Barbershop
2110 S. Lamar Blvd., Ste. B • 442-8800
6800 Burnet Rd. • 454-1200

1107 E 6th St • 457-0400

1902 South Congress Ave • 445-0500

Since Michael Portman and Jayson Rapaport opened Bird’s Barbershop in May 2006 with one location on South Lamar, their invitation to “Walk in and Rock Out” has fit perfectly into the eclectic feel that Austin offers.

They offer salon-quality cuts with a price that is more that of a higher-end barbershop. The price coupled with quality cuts (the best haircut I’ve ever had was at Bird’s and guys, if you’ve never experienced a straight-razor shave this is where to go), really interesting décor, awesome parties and intriguing advertising has helped this business quadruple in size in four short years.

They definitely have done their job to help keep Austin weird while looking darn good from the neck up. – Sean Claes

603 North Lamar Blvd • 472-5050
An Austin icon, Book People is an independent bookseller for the whole community. This three-story jewel is located at the crossroads of 6th Street and Lamar. Book People offers a uniquely Austin space for the perusal of all kinds of literary fancies. – Arnold Wells

The Herb Bar
200 West Mary
· 444-6251
When you enter the small ivy-covered cottage called The Herb Bar located on W. Mary, you know immediately that you are in no ordinary store. The store originally opened in 1986; and Twila Dawn Willis took ownership in 1995. Twila and her staff provide a wealth of herbs, stones, jewelry, books and music. It also features weekly health talks and provides in-house massages and other services. -
Deborah K. Coley

Hoek's Death Metal Pizza
511 East 6th Street -- (512) 474-6357‎

We intended to avoid listing restaurants, but Hoek's was just too good to pass over. What Austinite has not strolled down 6th St, dazzled by brightly lit clubs and booming dance music, when suddenly, from a dark little hole in the wall on the strip, there comes the roar of blast-beat drums, machine-gun guitar riffs, and the guttural growls of bands like Pig Destroyer and Lamb of God.

Even if death metal isn't your thing, folks burnt out on Kane and Ke$ha (or, if it's a weekday, blues bands playing "Pride And Joy") may smile in spite of themselves: at its commercial epicenter, Austin still refuses to be pegged down. Beyond the punishing sonic wall is a suitably dungeon-like cave with a counter displaying Hoek's slices of "brutal pizza." In business since 1992, Hoek's hosts live bands on the weekends (guess what genre ...) -- Rob Greenamyer

I Luv Video
4803 Airport Blvd. • 450-1966

2915 Guadalupe St. • 236-0759
I Luv Video has somehow been able to beat the digital age thus far. By and large it’s been due to their ability to create a community of supporters of the stores ability to have on hand some really obscure movies. The characters that work behind the counter are usually as interesting and the movies on the shelves as well. Much like Waterloo Records, I Luv Video has been able to survive when chain-stores retailers of the same product. Bravo to owners John Dorgan and Conrad Bejarano who opened this gem in 1984. – Sean Claes

Lucky Lizard Curios and Gifts
412 East 6th Street • 476-LIZD

Steve and Veronica Busti have got an eclectic and interesting store smack dab in the middle of the 6th Street party district. Chock full of really cool knickknacks they find mixed in with some great items from Austin-area designers. It’s no mistake that this place has been one of the mainstays on INsite’s “All Austin Gift Guides” we publish each December. Looking for original Austin shirts, how about an Austin Ambigram shirt (it reads the same upside-down as right-side up). Then there’s fantastic jewelry, funky fish art, gargoyles, dragons, ghosts, Bigfoot, and pirates… oh my. It’s also home to Austin’s answer to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not… the Museum of the Weird. Only in Austin can shrunken heads coexist next to high-fashion jewelry. – Sean Claes

Lucy in Disguise (With Diamonds)
1506 South Congress Avenue • 444-2002

Playing dress-up isn’t just for children. Adults have been renting and buying costumes from Lucy in Disguise since 1984. Lucy’s recognizable facade is truly an original, right at home on South Congress. The interior is just as flashy as the exterior. Its no surprise that thee shop opened its doors on April Fools Day.

Halloween is a busy time of year for the costume shop, but there’s so much more to the store than one night alone. You can rent, buy and sell costumes year-round. The choices are varied and the selection keeps up with current trends but also includes vintage looks. So, you can find everything from Alice in Wonderland to Elvis and monsters to vampires.

The shop also has a huge selection of boas, wigs and hats of all styles, including pimp daddy and fedoras. Think outside the box and dress up for any occasion with the inspiring threads that help keep Austin weird. –Veronica Garcia

Parts and Labour
1604 S Congress Ave • 326-1648 30.2479 -97.7504

Parts and Labour is hip to what makes Austin original. This boutique specializes in trendy and funky fashions and accessories. If you’re looking for just the right words to help you express your love of cycling or disdain for Dallas try saying it on a T-shirt. Parts and Labour has a fantastic selection of quirky tees that will get you noticed and might even get people thinking. The shop carries locally made items, including crafts, hair bows, purses, dresses, house wares, soaps, candles and jewelry. The items are reasonably priced and good quality.

Austin locals Alexandra Renwick, Lizelle Villapando, and Talena Rasmussen opened the store in 2003 and they’ve helped the local craft community blossom through the years.

P&L only sells Texas produced items made in Texas by Texans. The owners choose to support the local economy. The store deals in consignments, so if you’re crafty and you need some extra cash you might want to look into having your merchandise sold here. –Veronica Garcia

Precision Camera & Video
3810 N. Lamar Blvd. • 467-7676

Whether you are looking for a camera, photo printing, camera repair, frames, or classes to learn how to take a better photo, look no further than Precision Camera and Video. Jerry and Rosemary Sullivan and owned and operated this establishment since 1976, and it has become a favorite of locals because of their expertise, service, and selection. They really go the extra mile to make sure you can learn your craft, be it to take photos at family gatherings or music festivals. – Sean Claes

Pyramid Audio
305 East Braker Lane • 458-8292

If it's been obsolete for decades but you want it to sing like it was fresh off the shelf, you need Chris Lewis at Pyramid Audio. Lewis is a wizard with analog and tube audio -- technology that transistors and diodes phased out back in the Vietnam era. But for thirty years running, audiophiles nationwide with a passion for antiques pay big bucks to send their trophies to Austin so Lewis can get them working again. From tank-like power amps to Teddy Ruxpin dolls, Lewis brags that his impeccably equipped repair shop services "the largest collection of broken stereos in the country." -- Rob Greenamyer

Rock N Roll Realty

Opened in 2009 by broker Erik Fortman and agent Lauren Crow (both musicians), Rock N' Roll Realty banks on the image of Austin as the city of a thousand guitarists. The business also keys into the fact that the quality of service is what counts, whether the agent is wearing a tie or a t-shirt. In fact, as young people pour into Austin, the average walk-in will be more at ease with an apartment locator who would look at home in a rock club rather than a Rotary Club. On these principles, Fortman's upstart brokerage flourishes. • Rob Greenamyer

Rock N Roll Rentals
1420 W. Oltorf St. • 447-5305

Need a Fender Geddy Lee signature bass guitar? $1,000 brand new. $40 a month from Rock N' Roll Rentals. Want to put on a show in your basement? How about a 1000-watt complete PA system that could run you over two grand off the shelf? $84 a month. A $500 condenser mic for $20 a month? No problem. And if you only want it for the weekend, cut those monthly prices in half. Since 1989, Jim Norman's music gear rental warehouse has been putting professional gear into the hands of even the most humble of garage bands, including lighting, pro A/V, wireless transmitters, and studio recording gear, at highway robbery prices. - Rob Greenamyer

The Soup Peddler
501 W. Mary St.

In 2001 David Ansel decided to leave his high tech job and dedicate his life to making soups that he delivered to customers who special ordered (he calls “soupies”) from a cooler that rolled along the back of his bicycle.

If that is where the story ended, The Soup Peddler would still be on this list, but he has turned a one-man one-bike shop with 17 “soupies” into a storefront and delivery business that has over 700 soupies, delivery vehicles, a full not-just-soup menu, and a delivery area that spans all of Austin. And lets not forget his book, “Soup Peddler's Slow and Difficult Soups: Recipes and Reveries“ released in 2005.

Check the website for this weeks soups and meals. – Sean Claes

South Austin Music
1402 South Lamar Boulevard • 448-4992
Independent guitar sellers tend to get swallowed whole when Guitar Center comes to town, but Bill Welker's 24-years-young guitar trading post is doing just fine with very little marketing. That's because South Austin Music is so organically integrated with the local music scene that it can't help but be a must-shop for local axe-slingers stocking up on their favorite boutique equipment. Weekend warriors and local legends alike stop in to examine Welker's wares, which include a dizzying menagerie of stomp boxes and enough Orange amps to strike you sunblind. Proud of their local cred, the casual, knowledgeable staff aggressively pimps quality gear of Austin make, like Malekko effects and the Durham brand SexDrive and Mucho Boosto pedals. - Rob Greenamyer

Secret Oktober
1905-B S. 1st St. • 512-462-9217
Steam Punks rejoice -- Cassandra Davis' and Mary Milton's micro boutique has the goggles you need. Serving Goth and punk communities with high-end macabre threads since 2004, Secret Oktober is now on the cutting edge of the booming Steam Punk trend. For the uninitiated, it involves pairing antique Victorian clothing (handlebar mustaches a plus) with kooky-looking gadgets, goggles, and machinery, for an overall Sherlock-Holmes-meets-Jules-Verne look. CDs, stickers, buttons, jewelry, and t-shirts also await you along with the corsets, buckle boots, and studded coats, beyond an "open" sign hand-lettered with the delicate script of a sensitive girl's diary. -- Rob Greenamyer

St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store
1327 S. Congress
· 442-5652

Affectionately known as, “Saint Vinnie’s,” to many locals, this store provides low-cost donated used and new quality clothing, baby items, home furnishings and vintage items. The large front store windows are decorated in a South Austin funky style; and the staff is friendly and helpful. When you travel upstairs, you arrive at a large selection of furniture, bicycles, home electronics, collector’s items, books and music. This store has everything to outfit your entire home. As an added bonus, this store has a community program to provide goods to the less fortunate. The store is a Vincentian Family partnership between the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Ladies of Charity.
- Deborah K. Coley

Ten Thousand Villages
1317 S. Congress Avenue
· 440-0440

Ten Thousand Villages opened on South Congress in 2004; and is managed by Kitty Bird. This interesting store provides interesting and unique gifts, musical instruments, toys and home décor from around the world. The store sells fair trade items from developing countries and each item is displayed describing its country of origin; and is staffed by volunteers. This store has something for everyone from babies to adults.
- Deborah K. Coley

Terra Toys
2438 W Anderson Ln C1 • 445-4489
This is the toy store you remember from your childhood. Before big box corporate toy stores, local stores were a magical place to be for children and adults. Terra Toys continues that tradition with all manner of trinkets and games for boys and girls of all ages. From old school giant spinning tops, to costumes and an eclectic selection of cool plush toys, Terra Toys continues to bring the magic of play to Austinites. – Arnold Wells

Tesoros Trading Company
1500 S. Congress Avenue
· 447-7500

Tesoros Trading Company offers unique gifts from the most seasoned traveler to the armchair shopper. The spacious shop has the feel of a bustling open-air market; however, it provides a shopping experience in a relaxed temperature-controlled atmosphere. Owner Jonathan Williams started the company in 1983. Goods from around the world are displayed according to country or region of origin. No passport is necessary to sample the interesting mix of wares including t-shirts, clothing, house wares, music, and religious objects. The store’s website offers a cornucopia of gifts that can be shipped to far-flung regions.
- Deborah K. Coley

Things Celtic
1806 W. 35
th Street • 472-2358
This store is all things Northern European. Special emphasis is given to Irish and Scottish motifs. With an excellent website and a cozy storefront you will be sure to find something to suit the anglophile in your life. Whether you want to get a formal Kilt for your wedding or you’re looking for that perfect bit of Irish silver jewelry Things Celtic is your ticket back to the homeland. – Arnold Wells

The Thoughtful House Center for Children
3001 Bee Caves Road Suite 120 • 512-732-8400

The Thoughtful House Center for Children, founded in 2005 and located in Austin, Texas, is a non-profit organization that includes a collaboration of doctors, nutritionists, dieticians, psychologists, scientists, and community activists working to provide support for people affected by childhood developmental disorders, with a focus on autism spectrum disorders. The mission of Thoughtful House is to advance the treatment and understanding of development disorders through medical care, education, research, and community support. We are in the midst of an epidemic of developmental disorders that includes autism, Asperger's Syndrome, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), pervasive development disorder (PDD), and nonverbal learning disorder (NLD). Our local, regional, and national communities are under-equipped to diagnose, treat, and educate these children. We are fortunate to have access to Thoughtful House, which is a data-driven environment for generating best practice models and setting new standards of care for children with these disorders. Ultimately, research will yield the answers needed to best serve this community. Visit to learn how you can ensure that every child has the same chance of maximizing their potential. -
Barbara Touey

Toy Joy
2900 Guadalupe •

The name Toy Joy might seem self-explanatory, but there is so much to be found in this unique shop on the north end of the drag that you’ll be glad you ventured in.

You don’t have to be a child to appreciate this toy store, but it helps to be young at heart. There’s plenty of variety to appeal to everyone from infants to adults. Toy Joy is the perfect place to find a gag gift or pick up a new hobby like juggling or magic tricks.

Toy Joy is filled from corner to corner and floor to ceiling with everything from plastic snakes and spiders to Japanese robotic dolls and novelty lights. It’s chock full of super hero items. There's also funny fake mustaches, jewelry, coin purses, décor and refrigerator magnets with the likes of Mr. T, Elvis and Mother Teresa.

The best part about toy joy is that you can spend hours in there and still never see every single item. It's a new experience every time.

If you have a penchant for Parcheesi or a hankering for hula-hoops, this is the place to go get your fun fix.

And if you get hungry while you’re shopping just go to the back of the store where they serve up coffee, tea, shakes, smoothies and dairy-free vegan frozen soft serve. – Veronica Garcia

Turquoise Door
1208 S Congress Avenue
· 480-0618
Owners Terry Hennessey and Gary Plank opened The Turquoise Door on South Congress in July 1989. The store is a veritable wonderland of beautiful turquoise, amber and silver jewelry from Mexico and other exotic locales. If that isn’t enough to strike your fancy, the store also sells beautiful home furnishings from handmade tapestries to painted metal wall hangings in a variety of sizes and styles. The store is located at the epicenter of the South Congress shopping district, and is only a short walk from the popular restaurant Guero’s.
- Deborah K. Coley

Waterloo Records and Video
600A North Lamar

There’s nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon in Austin, than to go to the record store. Even in this digital era, it’s a soul-enriching experience to be able to listen to the latest releases, flip through magazines and chat with fellow music lovers for hours. And you can easily find anything you’re looking for under one roof with the wide selection that covers all genres of movies and music.

Waterloo has been an Austin icon since 1982. That’s longer than most of their shoppers have been on this planet. But Waterloo has aged so well from its humble beginnings to becoming known as a premiere venue. Thousands of concerts have been held at the shop and at times they spill out into the parking lot.

Artists from Willie Nelson to Ben Harper to Spoon have entertained crowds at this dynamic location. Waterloo has managed to keep a great thing going and helped to solidify Austin’s reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World. –Veronica Garcia

Wheatsville Co-Op
3101 Guadalupe
· 478-2667

Wheatsville Co-Op is not your average grocery store. Established in March of 1976, it provides Come see General Manager, Dan Gillotte, and his friendly staff who can assist you their wide selection of the locally grown, and produced food, and other items. The store is a member-owned cooperative; however, it is open to anyone who wishes to find. As an added benefit of membership, Wheatsville offers members-only discounts from time to time.
- Deborah K. Coley

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic work. But what about Ruta Maya?