by MP Mueller
Photographs by Dagny Piasecki
A dog walks into a bar. End of joke. It’s a common sight on Rainey Street to see lots of dogs walking everywhere with their owners. The area will soon be home to 1,000 condo residences housing mostly young professionals and empty nesters…and that number will continue to grow with other proposed projects in the blueprint phase now.
Rainey is a good thing. It’s situated right on the downtown Lady Bird Hike and Bike trail. There are bars, boat rentals and a grocery store in a setting that has young and old cozied up together. The combo is energizing: Renovated craftsman bungalows and Gothic style homes from the early 1900s have evolved into a nightlife mecca. Add to the mix newer condos and the lifestyle-enhancing businesses that have followed. But true insight into this little village’s soul is revealed when you learn they adopted a Guinea fowl named Geraldine as their communal pet (and later memorialized her with a funeral and proper burial, complete with carved headstone).
For Mary and Rusty Tally, who have lived in The Milago condos since 2006, Rainey Street is a modern day Mayberry. “Our neighborhood is a microcosm of the best of Austin—Lady Bird Lake, diverse restaurants and food trucks, fun bars with live music, coffee shops, bike rentals and condos filled with caring neighbors who get the specialness of our street,” Mary shared. “You walk out of your condo and Royal Blue Grocery is like Floyd’s Barbershop, where everyone hangs out and talks about politics, what they do and what they are going to do. On the weekends, we go there for a taco and coffee, get a gluten-free pizza at Salvation and a blow-out at Roar. It’s kind of like a little Mayberry.”
Mary says the dog-to-human ratio is high on Rainey Street and a great way to meet neighbors. “It used to be that the people who knew what was going on were those who stood outside smoking cigarettes. They’d hang out together and shoot the breeze. Dogs are the great connectors here—if you have a dog, you get to know lots of people.”
The person who knows most about what’s going on in their neighborhood? That would be dog walker Kris Schulz. She and her sister Kirsten own Fitpup! and have walked thousands of miles with Rainey Street pooches for 10 years now. If you want the scoop on the Rainey Street, you know to sit (or stay) next to Kris.
Rainey Street is nothing but quirky. Where else would you find a neighborhood that lovingly watched over a lone guinea fowl for 10 plus years? Geraldine, the Rainey Street Guinea Fowl, passed away two summers ago (death by taxi), but now lives on—the neighborhood’s new Hotel Van Zandt named its signature restaurant and bar Geraldine’s. She ruled the neighborhood for more than 15 years. She was free range before free range was cool. Geraldine charmed the areas’s construction workers, heavy equipment operators and delivery drivers, forcing them all to stop what they were doing as she ate a bug or two while crossing the street. As the neighborhood grew—with each new condo or during each SXSW—Geraldine’s Facebook page grew, too (1,667 followers at press time). Approximately 75 friends of Geraldine’s attended her funeral. Craft Pride, a Rainey Street bar, organized an all-day Geraldine memorial concert benefiting Austin Pets Alive!, and a grave marker and casket were created just for the neighborhood’s bird.
— Mary Herr Tally, Rainey Street resident
Read more from the Neighborhoods Issue | June 2016