The Herb Bar is an Old Austin Mainstay with Natural Remedies for What Ails You
New owner Megen Mundy fosters a sense of local community, while offering herbs, tinctures, incense and more
Story and photos by Deven Wilson
Blink and the skyline changes before your eyes. Austin’s only constant is the constant change that sees the city continue to push closer to the sky, densify and see old institutions make way for new businesses.
When you wander past the always busy thoroughfare that is South Congress, you see The Herb Bar, a limestone building barely visible behind a towering wall of ivy. Now owned by Megen Mundy, the store has been a pillar of its community for years.
“Without sounding corny,” says Mundy, as she describes what brought her in to be the latest steward of an Austin icon. “It really is a dream come true for me. When I first moved to Austin, I lived in this neighborhood. I would come into this shop and I would buy all my things here. I love it.”
Mundy took over for the last owner, Twila Willis, who envisioned a one-of-a-kind destination for herbal treats during the greed-driven decade of the 80s.
The Herb Bar, while it feels like an ethereal and timeless institution, only came to serve the city in 1986. Before that, its building was the area’s post office. Before that, it was built by Robert S. Stanley as a general store, one of the first Black-owned businesses in the city. While the stone building has been here since the early 20th century, the hippie hotspot we now know only came to be in the latter half of the 1900s.
“[Twila] put it all together herself when she was very young,” explains Mundy. “She was very determined and was the first one in town doing what we’re doing.”
So, when Willis announced she was ready to retire and asked Mundy to take over, how could she say no?
Of course, starting to manage the store came with its own issues. The commonplace headaches of having to run a business hit quickly, and then there’s having to extinguish the uproar over someone coming in and taking over a beloved business. As locals watch Old Austin and South Congress spots like Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds come to an end by retirement and Teseros Trading Company closing its doors for good, even changing hands can send people into a panic.
“I get that people were worried,” she says. “But then they come in and say, ‘Oh! I know you! You’ve sold me herbs before?’ I do think knowing that I worked here before has relieved a lot of tension.”
Mundy wants it to be clear that she and her team, including Jenny, an Herb Bar employee of more than 20 years, are working to see the space bloom to its full potential by modernizing only when necessary, organizing the shop and having a kitchen to make their own extracts, tinctures and bar products.
Mundy is also shifting to carry more locally made products to stock the shelves, as well as more products actually made in The Herb Bar. In addition, the team is in the process of removing plastic in favor of recyclable materials where possible, always furthering the store’s environmental spirit.
When you enter The Herb Bar, there’s magic in the air — magic that the new owner fell in love with the first time she came in and magic that continues to bring its community back. Looking around, guests can see the shop’s newfound sense of organization. Step further in to look over various crystals, teas and incense. Find your way to the actual Herb Bar, with shelves teeming with potential potions for what ails you. This is where Mundy’s touch really shines.
With her background as an herbalist, Mundy wants to show the local community how to make their own holistic creations and empower themselves. She also wants to put her green thumb to good use in the garden space by creating a cove off the street to host more events and classes, all in an effort to further foster that sense of space Twila Willis gifted Austin long ago. Bringing that big Virgo energy to The Herb Bar, Mundy also sees more themed sales and events for each astrological season, Equinox and Solstices, Samhain and other holidays. That energizing vibe is easy to pick up on, and the excitement for a fully in-bloom Herb Bar is palpitating throughout the space.
In an ever-changing Austin, where it’s rare to find old institutions still standing, there’s only one thing Mundy wants the city to know about her beloved business. “We’re still here,” she says — and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.