It’s getting increasingly expensive for independent shops to stay weird in Austin.
The city is growing faster than any other big American city, and festivals like SXSW, ACL and Fun Fun Fun Fest are magnets for big businesses. Anyone who’s had his or her favorite venue close its doors because of rent prices in the last few years understands this all too well.
Fortunately, there is a whole lot of local support for the independent businesses that keep the city’s spirit alive. Here are 23 record stores, cafes, boutiques, bookshops and various other indie shops that authentically capture what makes Austin such a great place to live.
Waterloo predates “the boom years of the eighties had yet to fully take hold of the sleepy town.” In the 34 years the shop has been in business, it has remained true to its original vision of being a go-to spot to find good music. Even with festival growth and tech booms, that mission has proved resilient.
Antone’s Record Shop
Antone’s is another institution in Austin. The record shop opened more than a decade after Clifford Antone’s club, but it has endured the city’s transformations by being a reliable place to find great blues records and records from Texas musicians.
Friends of Sound
Friends of Sound opened just south of downtown in 2004 and has grown quickly to become a local favorite. The shop buys old records, has a nice online store and a 45s Bargain Bin that any of us could spend hours exploring.
End of an Ear
The beauty of being so far down on South 1st St? End of an Ear has a nice parking lot. And most people end up leaving their cars parked for a while because browsing the shop’s collection takes hours.
Up in North Loop, a neighborhood that looked radically different not too long ago, Breakaway Records has staked its spot as the best place to pick up records. It’s all vinyl in the shop, and there is a ton of stuff to sift through every time you stop in.
Austin Vintage Guitars
Austin Vintage is a great place for guitarists to go geek out. The selection is nothing short of incredible, and the staff are laid-back but still helpful. If you’re driving on Red River, you’ll be able to spot the shop by the gigantic Telecaster out front.
South Austin Music
Down on South Lamar, South Austin Music has its own impressive collection of instruments and a professional, helpful team on hand. The shop is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2016.
Strait Music Company
The almost-50-year-old Strait Music Company has a couple of locations, one on the north side and one on the south side of town. There is a great selection of guitars at both, and beginner musicians can get lessons on site.
Capital Music Center
Capital Music Center is the best place in town to shop for pianos or keyboards. The knowledgeable team here also sell drums, offer piano lessons and have instrumental rentals available.
Cafes, Coffee Roasters and Bakeries
Houndstooth makes some of the strongest, tastiest coffee you’ll find anywhere in Texas, and the coziness of the cafe will make your pour-over taste that much better.
The fresh, local ingredients Sweetish Hill uses results in some of the most delicious and decadent breakfast foods you’ll get your hands on. And if you need an artisan cake for a special celebration — or just because — this is the place to go.
Baguette et Chocolat
It’s a drive out to Baguette et Chocolat in Bee Cave, but it’s worth the trip. This five-year-old shop serves the best French bread, French pastries and French cakes you’ll find this side of the Atlantic.
Flat Track Coffee
The two founder of Flat Track opened their tiny cafe (it’s 250 sq ft) three years ago and have cultivated a strong following since. In October 2015, the duo was able to crowdfund $31,500 to expand the cafe. “We are trying to preserve the disappearing culture of a tight-knit community by giving people a space to bond over a delicious cup of coffee,” the team writes.
Russell’s has been an Austin institution for 20-plus years, a place where locals can come in for a delicious lunch, quality espresso and maybe a slice of cake. Russell’s also supports local artists by turning its space into a gallery of sorts. Every time you go in there, a new collection from a different local artist adorns the walls.
Once Over Coffee Bar
Judy Rae Merhar at the Austinot writes that at Once Over “you’ll find a welcoming spirit, enhanced by the scent of freshly roasted coffee.” The atmosphere truly is inviting, and it makes for a great spot to sit down to enjoy a glass of wine, an espresso or a beer.
Clothing Stores and Boutiques
Men’s shop STAG Provisions is actually spreading the gospel of Austin’s independent spirit by branching out: It’s since opened stores in Dallas, Houston and Southern California. “Every item we carry personifies our commitment and passion to providing products with authentic, red-blooded style,” the owners write.
Uncommon Objects doesn’t really belong in the Clothing and Boutiques section, but where else to put it? If you’re looking for a taxidermied animal head or creepy statute, this should be the first place to check. Otherwise, just go in and marvel at the universe of cool stuff for sale.
Feathers is one of the best vintage shops in the whole country. Co-owners Emily Hoover and Christina Simon opened Feathers in 2005, and it “has quickly become a favorite stop among fashionistas from around the globe,” they write.
ByGeorge is a high-end shop that’s been around since the old days of Austin’s small-cityness. This is the best place in town for designer fashions (for men and women) and pieces for the home. There are two storefronts in the city today: On N. Lamar and on S. Congress Ave.
South Congress Books
Sheri Tornatore opened South Congress Books in 2011, “at a time when many booksellers were closing their doors,” she notes. The shop specializes in harder-to-find books, which makes for an awesome browsing experience.
Malvern Books specializes in literature and poetry from independent publishers, keeping the indie ethos alive from writer to reader. “We sell books we love to read and are proud to press enthusiastically into your hands,” the shop’s owners say.
Brave New Books
Brave New Books opened in 2006 to reflect the independent, contrarian, sometimes subversive spirit of the city. Or, as owner Harlan Dietrich writes on his shop’s Facebook page, Brave New Books is “Austin’s fine purveyor of the proverbial flip side of the coin. All the information the schools forgot to tell you and the media refuses to give you can be found here!”
No shop belongs on this list more than BookPeople, whose owner, Steve Bercu, has been THE driving force behind promoting local, independent business in Austin.
OK, who did we miss?