Shopaholics will be pleased with what they find in the Austin shopping scene—whether your style is retro vintage, upscale fashion designer or all things wacky and wonderful for the home or gifts. The usual range of chain department stores and shopping malls are in evidence of course, but the city has notable independents as well, such as Book People and Waterloo Records. There are also many cool places that sell Austin original items, from "Keep Austin Weird" t-shirts to prayer candles with Stevie Ray Vaughan on them. The retail industry here, like much of Austin's lifestyle, is geared quite heavily around the creative class and local artists. The 2nd Street District is lined with all manner of art galleries, original jewelry designs and quirky gift shops; as is SoCo (South Congress), which adds vintage shops and food trailers. Or, for a more contemporary Austin experience, check out the expansive shopping and mixed-use area, The Domain, where you'll find the major retailers, but also many hip boutiques and fashionable cafes in an outdoor walking environment.
Founded in 2011, Atown is very much an Austin original and brings a fresh attitude to the cool Burnet Road strip. The expansive, well laid out space answers the call of Austin's free spirit. Thickly populated with stylish women's and men's apparel, unique gifts, quality beauty products (there is a great Bumble & Bumble inventory!), home decor, children's, pet goods, & more, the store is home to the work of over one hundred local artists and designers. They sometimes have live music and other events here as well. (512-323-2533)
26 Doors Shopping Center
Whether you're looking for fabulous gifts, original toys or clothing, it can be found at 26 Doors, located in the heart of mid-town Austin. The shopping center is an Austin original since 1976. Great boutiques such as Adelante and Bell & Bird are here. The pretty central plaza with its bronze sundial is a perfect meeting place for friends, family and kids. Scott and Linda Storm opened the adobe-styled shopping center in 1976 and decorated the courtyard with artifacts from central Mexico: ox-cart wheels, carved stone bocks and pottery. But the signature features of the center were the twenty six 200-year old hand-carved wooden doors that adorned each of the shops. It is from these doors that the center took its name: 26 Doors. (512-338-9222)
Ten Thousand Villages
As one of the world's oldest and largest fair trade organizations, Ten Thousand Villages has spent more than 60 years cultivating trading relationships in which artisans receive a fair price for their work and consumers have access to distinctive handcrafted items.
After years in the SoCo shopping district, the Austin Ten Thousand Villages store recently moved to Burnet Road. Ten Thousand Villages is an exceptional source for unique handmade gifts, jewelry, home decor, art and sculpture, textiles, serveware and personal accessories representing the diverse cultures of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. The company encourages artisan partners to use environmentally friendly processes, sustainable natural resources and recycled materials to ensure each product offered has been crafted responsibly. (512-440-0440)
Vintage Around Town
The Vintage Around Town Guide is put out by Room Service Vintage, one of Austin's top vintage, antique and thrift stores in the North Loop District. Because Austin has such a love affair with vintage shopping, Vintage Around Town is the definitive guide to Austin's finest vintage and antique shopping, with over 40 stores listed including favorites such as Blue Velvet, Charm School Vintage, Frock On, Modern Salvage, New Brohemia and more. The guide is available online, and print versions can be found at any of the participating shops. Listed companies MUST be at least 85% vintage/antiques, thrift stores/non-profits, consignment stores, stores on the outskirts of Austin, internet stores, or estate sale companies. (512-451-1057)
Texas's largest independent maintains a stock of over 200,000 titles, plus an eclectic array of non-book items that elicit everything from laughs to groans. All the employees seem genuinely happy to be there, and are universally helpful and knowledgeable. Like much of the rest of Austin, BookPeople has a fun, relaxed and slightly off-center personality. It's no wonder, when you consider that energetic and fiercely pro-local-business owner Steve Bercu is a co-founder of the "Keep Austin Weird" campaign. BookPeople also offers literary camps that have one straightforward goal: to bring the books to life. (512-472-5050, 800-853-9757)
When people come to Austin, they usually think music and Waterloo records is the Mecca where music lovers come together. Waterloo Records is noted for its knowledgeable staff and an emphasis on customer service. The store prides itself on "catering to the music consumer" and features a ten-day return policy for goods in new condition. It regularly hosts events featuring live performances by both local and nationally-known artists. It has been awarded "Best Record Store" awards nearly every year since it opened. In addition to local acclaim, Waterloo Records is often listed alongside similarly iconic music stores as one of the best record stores in the US. (512-474-2500)
Arboretum at Great Hills
A unique shopping experience, the Arboretum at Great Hills gently beckons you to casually shop the beautiful and relaxed park-like setting that is home to more than 40 fine shops and restaurants in Austin's premier retail area. It is the heavily wooded park-like atmosphere that gives the mall its arboreal name. The Arboretum features a strong tenancy of national retailers and enjoys a regional draw. Shoppers stroll from store to store at this popular destination and enjoy nature's landscape, flowing runnel, soothing fountain, picnic area and Austin's landmark marble cow sculptures--great shopping in a tranquil environment. (512-338-4437)
Thanks to incomparable cuisine, diverse local artists, and eclectic shopping, Austin is known as one of the most unique destinations in the country. The Domain is bringing the best of Austin to one single, urban location. The area offers impeccable restaurants and upscale shops anchored by Neiman Marcus, Macy's and Dillard's. And in keeping with the Austin spirit, you'll find it all in a pedestrian-friendly, open-air lifestyle center. All of this is joined by the Westin and Austin's first aloft hotel, along with a luxury movie theater and plenty of entertainment options. (512-795-4230)
2nd Street District
The 2ND Street District is made up of some of the best shopping spots in Austin, along with many dining and entertainment venues. It is also home to several residential buildings and is a true mixed-use development in the heart of downtown. If you stopped someone carrying a shopping bag along the boutique-lined sidewalk and asked which store the bag came from, you're more likely to hear an unfamiliar calling card than a standard chain, along with an enthusiastic story about the cool owner of the shop from whence the tote (most likely eco-friendly) came. From local favorites such as Austin Rocks and Toy Joy to clothing, housewares and groceries, 2nd Street District has just about everything. (512-968-4777)
SoCo, or South Congress Avenue
South Congress was a haven for retro furniture and vintage clothing before it became SoCo,with stores such as Uncommon Objects and New Bohemia. Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds and Electric Ladyland is where Bob Dylan is rumored to have shopped for retro outfits. Now this area of Austin offers everything from vintage clothing to upscale, Austin chic boutiques such as Kendra Scott Jewelry, By George, Blackmail and Creatures. The street is anchored by Allen's Boots, where they offer thousands of different styles of Texas cowboy boots. (512-474-5171)
About Shelley Seale
Shelley Seale is a freelance journalist and author in Austin who has written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian and Texas Monthly, among others. She loves yoga, indie movies, wine, and books, though not necessarily in that order. Shelley has performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano and was once robbed by a monkey in Nepal. But, she doesn’t know how to whistle.
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