Where many might choose to close their doors during tough economic times, Russell Etchen of Domy decided to open his even further.
The owner of the intelligently artsy bookstore crammed with hard-to-find, collectable books, 'zines and toys expanded the breadth of the shop by bringing in four creative comrades who, quite literally, set up shop in the spare rooms of the space. By shacking up together, the health of their businesses would flourish and be freed of insane overhead fees.
All shops-within-the-shop sell different merchandise, creating a mega-market for not only books, but clothing and accessories (Olive Vintage), paper goods (Paper Party), jewelry and art (Busy Being), and sandwiches (Schmaltz).
"[The idea was] very simply a practical matter of keeping all shops open," Etchen explains of the serendipitous union of the five businesses. "It's a way to expand and create a space that provides other things than books and toys — things that I can't provide."
From left to right: Schmaltz owner Julia Hungerford, Paper Party owner Glade Hensel, Domy owner Russell Etchen, Busy Being owner Amber Abramson and Olive Vintage owner Laura Uhlir.
Owner: Glade Hensel
Standout items: DIY geometric paper ornaments, honeycomb balls, neon staplers and Chee-kie necklaces.
Hensel "loves to party and wants you to party with your friends in style." Thus in her corner of the store, she stocks "paper related goods with a modern design aesthetic" ranging from perfectly precious to darkly humorous.
While she stocks her own stitched, water color Glademade greeting cards, she goes out of her way to find products and artists that she believes need representation in Austin.
To that end, Hensel curates art shows within Paper Party's space on a six-week rotation. Upcoming are "Ryan Davis: At the Boundary" (October 27 - November 29) and a group print show (December 8 - January 10).
We all know that paper is a finite resource, to which Hensel says, "Your party can only last forever if you party sustainably. We do our best to offer sustainable and reusable products."
Owner: Laura Uhlir
Standout items: Washed silk button downs, collar tips, copies of The Gentlewoman and a small but stellar array of vintage hats and shoes.
Olive operated as an online vintage store in the two years leading up to its Domy debut and the careful curation of items continues within the brick and mortar outpost — in other words, this is one vintage shop where you wont have to dig to find a gem.
Just where did Uhlir hone her taste? "I think it came from growing up in a small town where you really had to get creative to find stuff," she says. "We really didn't have much in the way of fashion."
She also sprinkles in contemporary design items, like Baggu leather goods and a few jewelry designers, that be "easily mixed with vintage for a timeless look."
Owner: Amber Abramson
Standout items: Dream Collective jewelry, indigo dyed textiles, handmade leather moccasins
Doing business from Domy for a year now, Abramson moved from L.A., where she was an art curator and gallery director, to begin a new life adventure. To our benefit, she brought with her a dense rolodex of artist friends.
Busy Being sells the most high-end jewelry of all Domy-dwelling shops and Abramson is always looking for a new dimension to add to the variety of merchandise.
"The look [of Busy Being] changes," Abramson says. "I incorporate what I'm drawn to at the moment, and lately I've been incorporating more African and spiritual elements."
She's also introduced workshops to the Busy Being mix, but they aren't your average découpage classes. We're talking "New Orleans Booty Bounce" and "Practical Magic for Rational Thinkers."
Owner: Julia Hungerford
Standout items: The Seitan Reuban sammy
Hungerford was raised a vegetarian and her lunch and dinner sandwiches have been the best kept secret of the East Side for the past five or six months.
She spares no expense on sourcing her products from forward thinking grocery stores like Wheatsville Co-op and is a huge fan of produce from Tecolote Farm.
Hungerford says she's been paid to cook for the past five years and was excited to take the leap of faith with her own trailer when the opportunity arose.
The vegan version of a Jewish deli, Schmaltz invites diners to take a load off in Domy's gated back hard for lunch or dinner. To wash it down, the trailer also serves homebrew Kombucha.
Together, all shops host various art openings and parties. Each is truly excited to support one another's ideas, and the cross pollination of the business owners' concepts and beliefs is proving to be a positive partnership that's allowing creative ventures to thrive in Austin.
Visit Domy Tuesday to Saturday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. or Sundays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. It'll be impossible to walk away empty handed.