The gold standard for local decorative arts, Whit Hanks' emporium (empire?) is no bargain basement. But if you want a little piece (or a big piece) of time-tested classic design in your home, and you want value for the money you spend, you could do far worse than Austin's best full-service antiques dealer.
1009 W. Sixth
Question: What is Austin's largest souvenir? Answer: Its airport. There's no mistaking, to those who pass through, that Austin Bergstrom International Airport screams "Austin." Here, passersby are told about Austin museums and local legends. The airport eateries, Amy's Ice Cream, Matt's El Rancho, and the Salt Lick are completely unique to Austin, not just Texas. Stores tout Austin City Limits merchandise as well as Texas foods and bottled water. Even our own homegrown BookPeople gets into the act. Austin's airport has become more representative of its city than its state, or as some might say, a very large souvenir. Oh, and some of the widest variety of Austin souvenirs can be had here as well.
Only in Austin could the book megastore format become a declaration of local commercial independence. You mean you can select from a wide selection of titles and deal with staff who actually read and love them and support a locally owned business? Who'da thunk it?
While each of these stores cover deep niches, the strength of each, besides their obvious devotion to their specialty, is the welcoming environment to those outside the circle of devotees each store provides. You don't have to be a card-carrying member of a club to enjoy these treasures. Upon entering Book Woman, customers are greeted by the wall of children's books that deal with such real-life issues as uncomfortable touch and sexism in the workplace. The rest of the stacks take as thorough and unflinching an approach. They also have a lending library of video tapes and a used books section. Austin Books carries stacks of older superhero comics, an amazing array of movie posters, action figures, and an impressive cross-section of today's indie comic titles.
PCs, Macs, Megabytes, RAM - these are all a drop in the bucket in the vastness of CompUSA's warehouse stock. Although a corporation, CompUSA has found its way into Austinites' psyche. As well as computer merchandise, CompUSA also provides tech support and computer classes and training.
Ever seen an anachronism in action? Nau's original drugstore has been on West Lynn since 1951 and in all that time has not changed its building or shelving display. One gets an eerie feeling seeing K-Y Jelly stacked like penny candy next to the cigars or the latest copy of Maxim sitting on the magazine rack by the lunch counter where old-fashioned hamburgers and shakes are served up. Yet Nau's has continued to delight because it can change its selection to meet the modern person's needs while keeping its original charm.
Nau's Enfield Drug, 1115 W. Lynn, 512/476-1221
Normally we hate to be targeted, e-wise, but there are certain realities of earth and sky that make it practical when it comes to gardening. Homegrown beauty Garden.com will tell you all about azaleas and other regionally inappropriate plants, of course, but if you give them a ZIP code and choose from an extensive list of specs (sun/shade, soil type, etc.), they'll let you know about greenery more suitable to your neck of the woods. Sure they sell stuff, but you can also gaze upon their featured gardens, or just the lovely site itself, for inspiration.
Few retail trademarks furrow deep enough into the cultural lexicon to become adjectives ("He's so J. Crew ..."), not to mention sitcom fodder. Pottery Barn reached that status long ago, and with good reason: a consistent, recognizable style with classic modernist roots. Service is top-notch, the store itself is a study in relaxed understatement, and their choice of color names is a constant source of wonder. Everyone knows where to go for a pomegranate rug or butter shams. Yum!
Architecturally divided down the middle of its store by the entranceway, the Cadeau also divides itself between kitsch and elegance. To the left, you'll find sweet little autograph books and cards, funky lamps and furnishings, and crazy wrapping paper to complete the job. The right-hand side of the store breathes cool calm composure. China and silverware create a breathtaking as well as eclectic display. Prom-style dresses and suits line themselves up according to style and fabric while shoes hopefully wait to be matched to an outfit. An array of opportunities to furnish the perfect gift for your best friend or mother-in-law await in this small store on the Drag.
Don't you love it when the good guys win? Indeed, Russell Korman is one heck of a good guy. In a world of shopping mall mentality and chain store anonymity, this one-of-a-kind independent not only does great business, he does it with a social responsibility that is the model of corporate giving. With a commitment to Austin's Junior League and generous support for the Austin Settlement House, Russell Korman knows that it truly is better to give than to receive. Not bad for a guy who started it all by selling beads on the Drag.
Russell Korman Jewelers
3806 N. Lamar
The perfect marriage of Susie Bright and the Marquis de Sade (with maybe a little Models Inc. thrown in), Forbidden Fruit departs its teenhood (it'll be 20 next year) on top, so to speak. Three boutiques, each with its own specialty, years of "Best of Austin" awards, and still the best, friendliest, most educational li'l fetishwear venue/piercing salon/"erotic/self-awareness" shop in Texas.
Do they carry McGillicuddy's? Do they offer more than one selection of Irish Whisky? A decent wine selection? Cold beer? Do they have plenty of party bottles and flasks in stock? Check! Check! Check, Check. And Check! And with neighbors like the teeming grad and international students who populate the area, not to mention the staff of The Austin Chronicle, this relatively new-on-the-scene lick-o-sto' has its work cut out for it.
1000 E. 41st, 512/451-7400
519 E. Seventh, 512/476-9982
8030 Mesa, 512/346-1861
3652 Bee Caves Rd., 512/327-0315
5505 Balcones, 512/323-2775
850 N. Bell Blvd., Cedar Park, 512/335-4244
12400 Hwy. 71 W., 512/402-0333
701 Capital of Tx. Hwy. S., 512/347-1299
Main office: 107 W. Stassney, 512/442-8395
This isn't dire at all: needing musical equipment and finding yourself inside this venerable emporium of all things artfully sonic. A helpful, knowledgeable staff, a fine selection of and service for whatever strings or keyboards or winds or percussives you're looking for (as well as the electronics to amplify them with), and - instead of just another list-generated customer base - an entire thriving community of musicians as patrons and clerks. This is no national chain here. Strait is a local store supporting local music since 1963; and doing a better job, too, say our readers.
Longtime Austinites are spoiled by Breed's neighborhood convenience and friendly customer service, so there's not much danger we'll drive to the far suburbs in search of hardware. Thousands of repeat customers know Breed's will have what they need and a familiar employee to patiently explain its use. And while the home-improvement types are busy fondling the socket wrenches, serious cooks and well-heeled dilettantes alike will be in the cookware section ogling the Cuisinarts and the All-Clad. Breed's has something for everyone.
Pawn shops are the best way to get the finer things in life, such as jewelry and musical instruments, for a finer price. Doc Holliday's helps out even more with sales on different items throughout the year. Unquestionably a savior when you've really pissed your girlfriend off.
Doc Holliday's Pawn Shop/Cash America
611 S. Lamar
Is it the gold jewel collars with matching leashes that make us swoon? Perhaps. More likely it's just the small and intimate nature of Bark-n-Purr's store and the personal attention that make us feel as pampered as the pups. Pet food and collars galore, but they also supply birds and fish and offer dog-grooming services. The jewel collars are available in silver too, should you require a second set.
How big is an 800-year-old live oak tree? Big enough to be the star attraction of this unique nursery. Specializing in hard-to-find native plants, it also boasts its own waterfall that literally makes this urban oasis 10 degrees cooler than the rest of our city. Could that be why this place is so South Austin cool?
Since 1982, Waterloo has been letting you listen to anything in the store. With a staff that is always knowledgeable and passionate about music, they rank as one of the best record stores anywhere. Waterloo is the destination for serious music lovers - a local establishment that pioneered what are now standard industry practices such as satisfaction guarantees. (Don't like the record you bought? Take it in for an exchange.)
Ataris, Nintendos, Super-8 projectors, synthesizers ... Goodwill excels in collecting those vintage machines that most people can't wait to get out of their closets, and we can't wait to get into ours. By bringing in such a large volume of stuff, Goodwill ensures that there will always be something worthwhile to pick over, whether it's clothes, electronics, or home furnishings.
Main office: 1015 Norwood Park Blvd., 512/637-7100
2800 S. Lamar, 512/442-8802
836 Airport, 512/389-3277
Goodwill Computerworks, 1015 Norwood Park Blvd., 512/637-7502
13096 Hwy. 183 #104, 512/258-5898
8965 Research Blvd., 512/832-0004
5555 N. Lamar, 512/451-2306
9801 Brodie, 512/280-8037
701 Newman, 512/478-6711
7100-C W. US Hwy 290, 512/288-7700
3910 Far West, 512/795-6387
6505 Burleson, 512/681-3301
7727 Burnet, 512/374-0260
1819-B S. Pleasant Valley, 512/389-0547
1700 W. Parmer #101, 512/719-4119
9111 S. First, 512/280-2204
1420 Wells Branch Pkwy. #300, 512/251-2777
2814 Bee Caves Rd. Ste.2814-B, 512/329-8771
The building that used to be the old Whole Foods before it moved down the street now houses rows and rows of used CDs. The music selection lives up to its name - it's certainly affordable. You can find everything here, no matter your musical tastes. After thumbing through the well-organized sections of jazz, blues, punk, pop, world, and indie music, it's difficult to walk out of there with only one selection. Maybe they should rename it "Cheapo: Buy by the Dozen."
Whether you poke around in cowpoke shirts, Hawaiian print, corduroy pants, and polyester-blend slacks or sashay in Chinese silk dresses, sequins, halter tops, and vintage shirts, you never know quite what you will find at Blue Velvet, but you're sure to find something.The whole shopping experience is wonderfully mellow with a helpful but low-key staff who let you browse and soak in their fabulous selection of background music at your own pace.
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