Housed in a gorgeous historic building right on the main street of Elgin — a city just 20 miles past Austin with a reputation for serious sausage-making skills — The Owl is a savory combination of hip vintage home goods store plus wine and beer bar.
Open since October of last year, The Owl's beginnings started as early as 1990, when co-owner Molly Alexander was street manager during a television movie filming. The film company wanted exposed brick as a set backdrop, and the owner of a downtown building allowed the film to remove the interior plaster. Revealed was a charming and wonderful original ghost mural of Owl Cigars, originally painted in 1901.
Fast forward a few years later and the creative couple of Alexander and co-owner Gary Luedecke began to secretly brainstorm what they could do to invest in Elgin's community. During a community planning meeting in August of last year, someone wrote "wine bar and shopping" on a sticky note and literally stuck it on the very building the pair were considering.
No one else but the couple and the building's owner knew of their dreams of opening up a store; it was the physical sign Alexander had been waiting for to move forward. Two months of building restoration later and The Owl opened on the day of Elgin's Hogeye Festival to a rousing and successful first day of business.
The Owl mural — faded and totally charming — is only one element that makes this place worth a visit. Walk inside and you're greeted with a wide open building that stretches far back to a ivy-covered back patio. A simple, all-wood ceiling is high, but intimate. Vignettes of vintage furniture, accessories, art and more pull you in to explore every interesting item.
The Owl isn't just for shopping: A bar in the middle anchors the space. Customers can grab a glass of wine or pint of beer (or sample something first), continue to poke around or enjoy a comfy corner of a couch (and maybe even decide they want to take it home with them). All in an inspiring historic downtown building setting.
"I would encourage folks to pay attention to the details of the building. Built in 1901 most everything in the building is original, like the beaded ceiling, the original restored skylight, the back doors — all quite wonderful. The building is so special and we work hard to make it a place you want to come back to time and time again to enjoy a drink, appetizer, music or to shop," says Alexander.
There's an open mic night every other Friday and every Saturday night The Owl features local music — the night we visited was Austin's own Nano Whitman — and a vine-shaded back patio features a place to enjoy the last cool moments of reasonable temperatures.
Customers are encouraged to bring their own records to play and trivia nights are slated for later this summer. They've hosted many charitable events including a fundraiser for Hospice Austin, the Friends of the Elgin Library, Wildlife Rescue of Austin and more. Every six weeks they host wine tastings.
For future plans, they'll move to being open seven days a week this fall. But both Alexander and Luedecke hope to do more than just entertain Elgin residents; they hope to inspire the community:
"It was our goal to have our business help spur a retail renaissance in downtown Elgin. Our hope is that The Owl will not only be a successful venture for ourselves and our employees, but that it also helps lay the foundation for other retail businesses to open and thrive in downtown Elgin. For those who seek opportunity, Elgin is an easy place to open a business with a low threshold, and if you bring an exceptional concept that fits with our community then you will succeed as well."
You heard her, Austin entrepreneur wanna-bes. Whether you want to scope out Elgin for a potential business or just go grab a glass a wine and listen to a band
The Owl is open Wednesdays through Thursdays 2 p.m. - 9 p.m., Fridays 2 p.m. - 10 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. and Sundays 12 - 5 p.m. The Owl is located at 106 North Main Street, Elgin, Texas. Learn more on their website and their Facebook page.