Lemon Drop Children’s Shop Brings Joyful Airstream to South Congress
Motherhood inspired owner Emma Davis to transform her brick-and-mortar business into a mobile boutique for kids
By Liz Harroun
Photos by Mely Navarro
As many mothers know, having children often comes with a sort of reinvention. Gone are the days when you were idly sipping wine into the evenings, or catching that yoga class after work, or going shopping with friends for hours on the weekends. What comes, instead, is an often hectic but just as fulfilling new sense of time and purpose: those that include changing diapers, chasing kids around the house, and, while still shopping, it’s now for stuff for your kids.
Emma Davis experienced this same dramatic shift in identity and lifestyle when she became a mother about seven years ago. This caused her to take a long, hard look at her business, which at that time was a brick and mortar store in downtown Austin that sold women’s clothing. Running it had become exhausting, and the rent unsustainable, especially after a new high-rise destroyed the parking logistics for her store.
“The overhead sucked the joy out of it for me,” says Davis. So in 2015, after almost five years of business and soon after the birth of her first daughter, she called it quits. However, amid the demands and joys of those first few years of motherhood, Davis started to have a new vision: one that not only more aligned with her new identity, but (perhaps even more importantly) one that actually sounded fun.
Davis didn’t want to give up on owning and running her own store completely; she knew she was good at it. She had studied design and marketing management in college and has a true talent for both. While she’s always been good at the design part, she got bored quickly when designing clothes herself because the process ended once the design got to the store. Davis enjoys the holistic and dynamic nature of running a business, and all the interesting challenges that come along with it. However, she knew this time it needed to be different. Especially as a mother — with a stepson, young daughter and another daughter on the way — this time, it had to be sustainable, even energizing.
Davis’ new vision was an Airstream, painted with bright yellow lemons and stripes, that sold children’s clothing. She found a 1970 Airstream Ambassador on Craigslist and quickly got to work, completely renovating it to create the bright and cheerful space she had imagined. Finally, in January 2018, Lemon Drop opened, originally on 9th and Lamar Boulevard.
“My mom told me years ago when I started selling women’s clothing that I should focus on children,” Davis laughs reminiscently. “But I wasn’t a mother myself at that time! Once you have kids, you realize you don’t buy stuff for yourself anymore.”
Running a quirky mobile boutique immediately felt more aligned to Davis and her new identity, but it didn’t come without challenges. She moved locations several times in the first few years, experiencing the COVID lockdown and one break-in along the way. But she adapted, trying new locations, which was relatively easy due to her new mobile setup, and during COVID she focused on her online business. It flourished, especially with the sales of pajamas and art kits to keep kids at home cozy and occupied.
Recently, the shop’s Instagram account got hacked, and Davis was forced to shut it down and start a new one, losing the thousands of loyal followers that she’d spent years building. Meanwhile, with three kids and a husband who’s a firefighter with crazy hours, her hands are always full. Sometimes she has to bring her daughters to the 100-square-foot shop during open hours, which means she’s running her business, helping customers and watching her kids all at the same time.
Davis has continued to stay positive and find joy along the way. Just this summer, she found the perfect spot for Lemon Drop at the Lawn on South Congress, close to her family’s home. They had a new grand opening to celebrate the new spot — full of face painting, treats and giveaways. Davis was touched by all of the people that showed up to support Lemon Drop. She’s looking forward to staying put at this new location for a while, putting down roots in her own community.
Running Lemon Drop, much like motherhood, has had plenty of ups and downs. Still, Davis feels that her roles as business owner and mom are now aligned in that they share the same sentiment. While together they consume the majority of her time and energy, they both also reinforce her values and her true purpose in life. And for that, she’s setting a great example for her children, and having a lot of fun along the way.