It’s well known that when people move to Austin, they tend to stay in Austin. Many end up joining the ranks of the much-touted creative class, and almost all retain some aspect of the bohemian tendencies that led them here to begin with. Whether concentrated in family-oriented, central-city quirk-magnets Hyde Park, Tarrytown, Travis Heights and near South Austin or scattered in various quadrants of our increasingly far-flung landscape, all would appreciate something from one of these old-school bastions of Austin’s arty, funky predilections.
Despite our growing techie rep, Austin is a big reading town. We also love to read about the place we live. Longtime independent bookstore/community hub BookPeople offers an abundance of local fiction and written lore. Why not pick up Melanie Haupt’s excellent new Historic Austin Restaurants: Capital Cuisine Through the Generations, for instance? Progressive Country: How the 1970s Transformed the Texan in Popular Culture also looks to be a great exploration of one of the earlier local alternative waves. Or if newer local trends are more your speed, there’s always the new Robert Plant autobiography — as a special add-on, treat your giftee to the next Patty Griffin show; maybe he or she will score an autograph or two.
There’s really no need to belabor the reasons to do your Austin-centric holiday shopping at this longtime local music motherlode. It’s been Austin’s recorded-music mecca for eons, surviving the coming and going of big chains, rising rents and, so far, all manner of online developments. Perhaps your boho giftee would be delighted with a new box set or recording from the Grateful Dead, The Band, The Ramones or Shearwater. If not, there’s something else there he or she will swoon over.
In many ways, along with UT’s RTF program, the Austin Film Society birthed Austin’s filmmaking scene (which in turn played a huge role in the rise of indie filmmaking in general). Nonprofit AFS has gone from showing obscure films (yes, films, run through a projector) in an upstairs room above a coffeeshop to premiering big movies, helping start and manage Austin Studios and attracting international heavyweights to its Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards — all while raising money for grants to local films and filmmakers, running filmmaking camps for kids and still exposing Austin to the breadth and wonder of cinema from outside the Hollywood mainstream. Who wouldn’t love a membership, which, depending on the level, brings with it everything from free admission to some films and discounted admission to others to opportunities to rub elbows with red-carpet stars?
Hyde Park’s tiny purveyors of all things curded might be the best cheesemongers in town, if not the country. Their knowledge is pretty much endless, as is their hospitality. They can put together the perfect gift basked for a picnic, a rollicking party or a family holiday meal.
The plethora of massage schools, acupuncturists and alternative medicine practitioners certainly attest to the fact that this is a bodywork town. Milk + Honey combines that expert knowledge — along with our preference for delicious-smelling, all natural products — with the services and luxury of a spa in the central city. It has won multiple awards from our citizens, and for good reason: it’s grown-up and homegrown — and pure pleasure.
What would Austin be without its cleanses, its sweat lodges, its full-moon drum circles, its solstice celebrations? (L.A, possibly, but that’s a topic for another time.) Whether we like it or not, stay here long enough, and we all get a little New Age in us. But as those kinds of mystical pursuits have become more popular everywhere, we’ve grown along with them. Crystal Works is a great example of that confluence. As with any crystal shop worth its, um, salt, its staff possesses deep knowledge about the lore and potential psychic uses of their rocks, and they stock tarot cards, candles, geodes, bells, sound bowls and a variety of altar objects. On the other hand, their jewelry is drop-dead gorgeous and finely wrought. If your giftee loves beautiful things, anything from Crystal Works will be a hit, even he or she doesn’t give a hoot about chakras.
The Flag Store of Hyde Park (Hyde Park Market)
Let us not forget the importance of booze in the bohemian landscape. Hyde Park’s beloved “flag store” (which recently survived a complaint to the city and is again allowed to cover its store front with flags from all countries) lets you hedge your bets about your giftee’s taste with their mix-and-match beer sixers, which we’re sure they’ll let you put in a nice little basket. Add some of their mix-and-match incense, a purple light bulb and a bow, and you have almost everything you need for that Grateful Dead box set listening party.
For the wine-drinkers on your list, you can’t go wrong with what is one of Austin’s best wine shops. If you know your giftee’s taste, owner Matt Miller or buyer Sam Hovland will deploy their considerable knowledge in selecting the very best in your price range (and East End has some very nice price points). If you don’t have a clue, they also have an excellent array of accessories on offer, and you can’t go wrong with a gift certificate.
You would think Anderson’s Coffee, which has been a local gourmet coffee destination since 1972, when acquiring high-quality coffee beans and accessories necessitated a trip beyond the HEB, would have been diminished by the tidal waves of coffee madness that have taken place since its founding. Happily, it’s going strong, and definitely worth a visit if you haven’t been lately. They have wonderful custom blends and a well-made assortment of brewing systems and accessories. They have lovely loose-leaf tea, too.
Go big for your art-loving friends with a membership to the Blanton, which includes free admission, discounts and access to members-only events., and throw in some mighty cool items from their gift store as well. The dconstruct jewelry or a watch from NAVA would please the fashionable, while Press Factory Blocks and the Buck Stacking Game are fun home items. Their art books are also bountiful and beautiful.
Gail Chovan’s South Congress boutique redefined Austin style and set a new bar for edgy sophistication. While Chovan is working in her atelier these days, her shop is going strong and continues to offer ever-new wonders. The clothes are the focal point, but Blackmail is also stocked with always unique jewelry, books, accessories and artwork. A gift from Blackmail is guaranteed to send its recipient over the moon; these aren’t your usual baubles and tchotchkes.