At a Glance:
Alexa James Baby
Karina Drake shares her big plans for outfitting Austin’s littlest customers
by Margaret Williams
Photographs by Taylor Prinsen
When I arrive for our chat, Houston native Karina Drake is excitedly buzzing around and arranging her recently opened baby and children’s boutique, Alexa James. She’s arranging in that absent minded way we all recognize: when something already looks perfect but you’re just so excited you can’t help yourself.
The airy and open Claire Zinnecker-designed space is Drake’s modern take on the baby store. A curated selection of onesies hangs from a spare rack, bright geometric blankets line the back wall, and one corner of the store has been set aside as a reading space. Everything is warm, thoughtfully selected, and just so.
In 2016 Drake, a St. Edward’s University graduate, was living in New York working at Business Insider by day and attending Parsons School of Design by night when she gave birth to her daughter Alexa (James is her middle name). This major life change brought about the realization of a long held dream of opening a space that highlighted local makers when a new world of boutiques opened up to her as a first-time mother.
Inspired by brands like Livly and Tocoto Vintage, Drake left her day job, decided to bring her new family back to Austin and open a children’s boutique. Thankfully her husband Brent, a natural outdoorsman, was easily convinced to leave the Big Apple and before Drake knew it she was knee-deep in purchases for a store that had yet to find a home. Cue Tarica Navarro, who was looking to make a change in her business and championed Drake to take over the former Kettle & Brine space.
As Drake and I talk, she shares plans to one day create her own private label of more casual items like denim and separates. The idea, she explains, is that by doing so, she could stock more items, but also keep prices accessible. She pauses for a moment, looks around and says, “Well I moved, I have a new store and a two year old. For now, I’m good!” We would certainly agree.
“I think when you become a mom, you shop so much for your kid and stop shopping for yourself … but, it’s fun when you feel like you’re buying something for yourself too. After I left Business Insider I just started calling a lot of the brands, Livly in particular , that were based in Tribeca, and asking if they had ever thought about being in Austin. They must have thought I was crazy since I didn’t have a store or website.”
“Then, once I started working with Livly I was able to get in with Tocoto Vintage, Oeuf and Rylee + Cru. I just started buying pieces, but I was buying without a space. And through that process I met a lot of awesome brands like Classic Childhood.”
As Drake shares her vision, it’s clear that she’s a woman with a long-term plan. “I really want this to be an event space also … story time, pre and postnatal yoga, happy hour events for moms … I was inspired by stores in New York – Bonpoint on Bleecker Street, Yoya in the West Village – and I love the way the designer Claire incorporated all of those influences.”
Based on what I’ve seen so far, as I am leaving the shop of one of Austin’s newest entrepreneurs, I can’t help but think that all of Drake’s plans will most definitely take shape.