Shopping Across Texas: My 10 Favorites of 2017
Style Editor Lauren Smith Ford shares her top retail moments of the year, from big-city boutiques to small-town finds.
Perusing the racks of stores across Texas is part of my job. My husband doesn’t fully believe this. “So is coming home with a shopping bag also part of your job description?” he often asks, to which I respond: “It’s all in the name of research, my dear.” Looking back on 2017, I found quite a bit of retail inspiration, especially in Round Top, where a year-round retail scene is quickly being created by inspiring and visionary shopkeepers. One of my favorite reporting moments came when I was talking to famed Houston restaurateur Armando Palacios about his new high-fashion men’s store, Bad Hombres, which is housed in an early 1800s log cabin. He pointed to the studded and perfectly worn-in punk rock jacket that sat under what seemed like a spotlight in one corner of the store. “See that jacket?” he asked proudly. “I bought that off a kid walking down the street in Seattle in the nineties. He was wearing it without a shirt while walking down the street. I asked him if I could buy it for $100 in cash, and he gave it to me right off his back … a piece like that would cost thousands if I had bought it in a store, although I did have to air it out for weeks before I could wear it.” More than just interesting Texas characters with great stories, our independent shop owners are artists who create these magical worlds through their curation of goods that invite us in not only to shop, but to be inspired. Here’s a look inside my ten favorite Texas-owned shops of the year, each showcasing that there is no better time to shop local.
Travis Weaver—the owner of this, well, manly, shop in Houston—got his start by taking apothecary products typically created just for women, like bubble bath and soy candles, and designing them especially for men by repackaging them and creating new scents. It quickly resonated with dapper dudes when he started the line in 2012; he opened a brick and mortar store in the Houston Heights neighborhood in 2014. With a motto of “work hard, live well,” Weaver carries products he makes like the candles and much more. Need a copper-plated axe head, an incense burner in the shape of a New Mexico adobe, or a can of bourbon smoked sea salt? This clever shop keeper, who is originally from Brownwood, is usually around for a friendly chat and can help you find just about anything you are looking for. 321 W. 19th St., Houston; manready.com
Richter Goods, San Antonio
San Antonio man about town Mario Guajardo uses his shop on Broadway to highlight the state’s top makers with a rotating showcase of wares by Texas crafts men and women. I stopped into the store for the first time earlier this year and was charmed by this one-stop shop where you can get a “haircut in the Traveler Barbershop Airstream; sip a delicious coffee from Mila, housed in a Cargo Craft trailer; and hunt for the perfect denim jacket at Grey Moon Vintage, which operates out of a shipping container.” You can also get fitted by Guajardo himself for a custom shirt, dress, or pair of jeans to be made in the sewing room attached to the shop—bespoke on demand at its best. 2202 Broadway St., San Antonio; Richter Goods Instagram
It wasn’t until I walked each of the glamorous four stories of Forty Five Ten’s edgy-meets-elegant jewel box of a flagship store on Main Street in downtown Dallas that I fully understood the power of the Headington Group’s retail powerhouse. Curated by international Instagram fashion icons Nick Wooster and Taylor Tomasi Hill, the downtown shop is a design fete filled with beautiful men’s and womenswear, home goods, a jaw dropping shoe department, handbags, and jewelry, and even a mini-department for the high-fashion kid, all supported by a knowledgeable and well-dressed staff. At the end of 2016, they unveiled a 3,300-square-foot location in Houston’s River Oaks District, a remodel of the original store in Highland Park Village (TTH Forty Five Ten), and then this summer, the first store outside of Texas opened, an 865-foot boutique in Yountville, California. We can’t wait to see what 2018 brings for this important Texas style brand. 1615 Main Street, Dallas; 60 Highland Park Village, Dallas; 4510 McKinney Avenue, Dallas; 4444 Westheimer Road, Suite F100 , Houston; fortyfiveten.com
A signature shea butter inspired by the scents of the Chihuahuan Desert (you know palo santo wood is involved), a chunky amethyst ring that brings a touch of Southwestern cool, or a set of confetti cannons? Susannah Lipsey, the owner of Marfa’s enticing shop, Freda, calls herself a “peddler of keepsakes,” fitting because every time we stop in at the West Texas location, or at the newest shop in the Ace Hotel in New Orleans, we want one of everything. 207 S. Highland Ave.; shop-freda.com
I wondered whether the headline in our October issue might spur some debate—“Waco Gets Way Cool” —because it seems like everyone has an opinion about Waco and its current popularity thanks to Fixer Upper. All it took for this skeptic to get in on the hype was stepping into the contemporary space that belongs to Wildland Supply Co. The sandwich board out front read “shop local because it’s hip” and that’s exactly the kind of wares I found inside the spacious boutique in downtown Waco, with piles of washed vintage Levi’s, patent leather clogs, letterpress cards, locally made candles, and racks of basics with a twist. 721 Washington Ave., Waco, thewildland.com
I can’t think of another shop like Sunroom, which so many friends with seemingly different senses of style all claim as their favorite Austin store. This sunny shop on the ground floor of the South Congress Hotel features items such as a handwoven straw hat for that next vacation, an embroidered shirt dress inspired by the Texas capital city, and a catchall shearling bucket bag. In 2017, owner Lucy Jolis opened a second location at the Malibu Country Mart in California. 1603 South Congress Ave., shopsunroom.com
In East Texas, near the Texas-Louisiana border in Hemphill, Samuel Melton returned to his hometown to open an unexpected and inspired space filled with vintage treasures like worn-in caramel leather club chairs, 1950s Kilim rugs, and handmade goods by Texas makers. Melton, who has lived in Brooklyn and Dallas, is constantly rotating home goods and re-styling the shop while posting intriguing images of the nooks he dreams up and all around interior design inspiration on Instagram. 150 Main St.
One of my favorite reporting trips of the year was spending a crisp fall weekend in Round Top exploring the vibrant year-round shopping scene that seems to be growing by the second in the tiny town. In 2014, I interviewed Cheryl Schulke—Stash Co.’s head boss lady and chief maker of the line of handsome leather goods made in a historic mattress factory in Sealy—for one of the first Made in Texas columns I wrote, so I was excited to see her first retail space in Round Top come to life in a 117-year-old house with delightfully creaky floors. I didn’t want to leave without this block-printed Shibori flag by LA-based Old Glory that hangs on the wall, all of the apothecary goods (Boyds of Texas sumptuous Texas Lavender scent … yes please), and I couldn’t leave without an early Christmas present for my daughters, one of these wooden slingshots with pink accents by San Francisco’s Hella Slingshots. 111 Bauer Rummel Rd., stash-co.com
There’s a lot happening in the high-end yet welcoming historic building where Vaudeville has been pushing a forward-thinking design aesthetic to Hill Country shoppers since they first opened on Fredericksburg’s Main Street five years ago. Run by a dashing couple, chef Jordan Muraglia and artist Richard Boprae, Vaudeville is an underground bistro, gourmet market, and wine shop, with an impressive home-and-gift shop on the main level, and an art gallery on the top floor. The lushly appointed courtyard tucked below the street level is transformed into the V Supper Club on Friday, Saturday, and Monday nights, and for brunch on Sunday, when a multi-course chef’s tasting menu is served with wine pairings or craft cocktails. 230 E. Main, vaudeville-living.com
Corpus Christi native Wendi Martin started dressing Austin’s chic fashion hounds when she first opened her much beloved shop, Kick Pleat, in Austin almost 15 years ago. In 2016, she turned an outdated building set on prime real estate on Lamar Boulevard near West Sixth Street into a luxurious yet minimalist flagship store and opened a second location on Kirby Drive in Houston. Flowy tops, tunics, pants, and jumpsuits with clean lines, well-appointed cases of sculptural jewelry, and smart slides, booties, and slip-on shoes reign supreme throughout the stores’ ever changing racks set against an invitingly stark white backdrop. 624 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin; 2565 Kirby Dr., Houston; kickpleat.com