The Austin Chronicle

IBIZ Districts: Voting local with holiday dollars

By Katherine Gregor, December 21, 2007, News

If we value the neighborhood character contributed by locally owned stores and cafes – the independents that keep Austin weird – then we should remember to throw some holiday spending their way this season. That's the message from the Austin Independent Business Alliance, which notes, "Most people embrace the idea of distinctive businesses with local character, but often forget that the survival of these businesses depends on your patronage." (Mea culpa: Who among us has not shopped the mall or online this December?)

At the start of the holiday season, AIBA completed installation of colorful pole banners for four designated IBIZ districts – strips rich in fun and funky independent businesses. Brochures with maps for each district are available at participating retailers; they're also online at Grant funding for the banners, brochures, and other joint marketing efforts came from the Small Busi­ness Development Program of the city of Austin. By the end of this fiscal year, SBDP will have contributed $54,000 toward the IBIZ districts. (Always nice to see Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services doing something for our struggling homegrowns – as opposed to Domain subsidies for Tiffany's et al.)

To a larger extent with independents, what's spent here stays here, AIBA says. According to a prior economic-impact study co-sponsored by the association, if each Travis Co. household spent $100 of its holiday budget with locally owned merchants rather than at chain stores, about $10 million more would stay in our local economy.

So while finishing up the holiday shopping and eating, patronize a small, locally owned Austin business – and make a slim-profit retailer's day. Within the IBIZ districts, we did a little Secret Santa reconnaissance this week and turned up these ideas.

South Lamar IBIZ District

(South Lamar, from Hether to Bluebonnet)

One to try: 2110 S. Lamar

For that hard-to-buy-for man, why not a gift certificate to the hip and manly Birds Barber­shop? An indulgent old-fashioned straight razor shave is $25; a rock-star haircut is $25, a Mohawk or buzz cut just $15. Aviary offers eclectic furnishings and housewares, such as a child's china dish set with a cool Sputnik motif ($49) and other modern Scandinavian delights. A calendar benefits a local nonprofit for $15.99: Emancipet or the Breast Can­cer Resource Center. Neighboring 2110 strip shops include Legendary Beads, the Wax­ing Studio, Nails Pure & Natural (gift certificates online), Upstairs/Down­stairs (metro men's apparel; check out the eco-friendly designer wallets), and 365 Days, 365 Ways (sexy stuff from PG to XXX).

On your way, ladies, stop in at Bitchin' Threads, 1030 S. Lamar (by the Alamo Draft­house), and let proprietor Grace Faulkner find you that perfect dressy retro/eclectic ensemble for New Year's Eve.

Guadalupe IBIZ District

(Guadalupe, from 29th to 32nd)

A don't-miss holiday tradition: shopping at Toy Joy, 29th & Guadalupe, for the cool and knowing toys, gizmos, trinkets, and candy that give grownups a second-childhood thrill. Affordable stocking stuffers (also available from their online Web store) include Mozart and Jane Austen action figures ($8.95), sushi playing cards ($4.95), and Nihilist Chewing Gum ($1.25). Plus plenty of neat toys for real children not yet of drinking age. Other worthwhile stops within a short stroll: Antone's Record Shop, Breed & Co., I Luv Video and Vulcan Video, Buffalo Exchange, and Wheatsville Co-op for granola foodie treats.

North Loop Strip IBIZ District

(North Loop, from Chesterfield Avenue to Martin/Duval Street)
Intriguing stocking stuffers for adults and kids abound at Earth Art, 211 W. North Loop – most handmade items purchased directly from craftspeople and artisans globally. Delightful is the vast array of one-of-a-kind Indonesian kites, ranging from a fierce bat ($28) to a giant dragon ($125) – great as toys, folk art, or decor. At Forbidden Fruit, 108 E. North Loop, five chocoholic body paints and brush ($18) come stacked in special Christmas packaging, or send a message to your Bubba with the Pleasuring Her First DVD. A gift certificate to MonkeyWrench Books would please that pesky anti-materialist revolutionary on the list. Then browse the half-dozen vintage shops concentrated along North Loop/East 53rd between Avenues F and H. Room Service Vintage and others offer swell retro-chic glassware sets, jewelry and clothes, toys, cowboy boots, and other artifacts from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

East End IBIZ District

(East 11th Street, from Branch to Angelina)

Retail hasn't yet blossomed on this Eastside strip, but plenty of eateries invite holiday dining and gift-certificate purchases. Pick up the traditional Christmas Eve pizza from East Side Pies, 1401 Rosewood (limited delivery area); the Guiche has spinach, roasted garlic, green chilies, sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese. Or get down at Gene's New Orleans Style Poboys and Deli, Ben's Longbranch BBQ, or Victory Grill. In the upscale 1100 block, a celebratory meal awaits at Ms. B's or Primizie – the Italian cafe and wine bar offers complete catering and event coordination, too. Don't miss the artful as well as warm and cozy Blue Dahlia Bistro, 1115 E. 11th. Hearty winter dinner specials there include venison osso buco and gnocchi with wild boar.

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