The Ladies of East 11th: An Austin Style Pick
Three female-owned boutiques are drawing flocks to East 11th
WHILE EAST 11TH STREET may be best known for its world-famous brisket, the street savvy style of the neighborhood extends far beyond pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s signature hip glasses. At shops like Charm School Vintage (1111 E. 11th), Olive (1200 E. 11th) and Take Heart (1111 E. 11th), Austinites can get a dose of the city’s eclectic style and charm from three local, badass, female business owners.
“I like that we have several female-owned businesses on this street,” notes Nina Gordon, who opened her gift shop, Take Heart, in 2011. “We all took a chance to be a business owner, which means we probably have some characteristics in common.” Indeed, they do. Gordon, Shari Gerstenberger and Laura Uhlir may own three distinctly different shops, but they are all incredibly thoughtful curators.
At Take Heart, you’ll find a bounty of minimalist, well-designed gifts from makers around the world. There’s an emphasis on Japanese design. Pieces like little wooden, hand-carved Kokeshi dolls peek out from behind stacks of linen tea towels, adding a sense of playfulness to the shop. Gordon describes her style as “very feeling-oriented.” And carefully selected. “In a line of cards, I won’t pick all the cards,” she explains. “I’ll pick the five I really love.”
Next door, at the sunny and plant-filled vintage shop and apothecary, Charm School Vintage, Shari Gerstenberger takes a similar approach. “We curate really beautiful but really wearable clothing,” she explains. Every piece at the shop strikes an artful balance between bohemian and timeless, from patterned maxi dresses to perfectly broken-in wooden clogs to vintage turquoise.
There are crystals and tinctures, too, artfully arranged and complete with instructions for self-care. “Reminder: hunger and desire are sacred impulses” reads the notecard under a handful of bright red “carnelian” crystals. “It’s about things to feel good inside and out,” explains Gerstenberger, who sees her shop as truly befitting of its name: “It really is like a modern day Charm School.”
And down the street at Olive, Laura Uhlir (who also co-owns Catchtilly, the neighborhood’s “progressive general store”) is stocking things to make you feel good, too. Like porcelain “vibe badges” that proclaim “good vibes” and “far out babe” in gold lettering. Uhlir, who has a background in studio art, is naturally drawn to textures and colors. The result is a room full of creative clothing you’re not likely to find elsewhere, from an impressive list of talented independent designers. Think soft denim, structured blouses and easy, but unique, gauzy dresses.
The shops of East 11th compliment each other so well (as Uhlir puts it: “It’s a symbiotic relationship”) it would be a shame to pop into one without checking out the others. So go ahead and make an afternoon out of it. We hear there’s some pretty good barbecue nearby, too.