Vintage Bookstore & Wine Bar Marries Delicious Wine with Page-Turning Books
Owner Jean Buckner invites guests into the gorgeous building on East 11th Street
By Liz Harroun
Photos by Weston Carls
Everyone has a dream. For some, that dream stays tucked away — something they tell themselves is impossible or that they’ll do “someday.” For others, a day comes where they must act upon their dream. They have no choice because doing otherwise would be denying themselves. Jean Buckner is of the latter, braver group — and her dream was to open a bookstore.
This dream began as a young girl (already a book lover) when Jean first watched the 1998 film “You’ve Got Mail” with her mom. If you’re not familiar, Meg Ryan, then in her 30s, plays an idealistic small bookstore owner who (spoiler alert) eventually gets run out by a chain of mega book stores, which happens to be owned — unbeknownst to her — by her new internet love interest played by Tom Hanks. Despite the demise of the independent store in the movie, Jean thought owning a bookstore looked like the most lovely and romantic thing one could do with one’s life.
RELATED: Austin’s Best Shops for Unique Vintage Styles
From then on, she and her mom shared the dream of owning an independent bookstore. However, growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, in the 90s and aughts, Jean didn’t think it was actually possible, as she watched independently owned bookstores fail during that time thanks to big-box retailers and Amazon. But then, over the years, she became obsessed with figuring out what it would take to make a bookstore successful today.
“The more I looked into it, the more I realized bookstores weren’t closing because they didn’t have a customer base or loyalty from their communities,” says Jean. “It’s because publishers set the prices of the books. So bookstores don’t really have a lot of influence on how much they sell their books for, and so the margins are just too small to make a big enough profit to afford rent.”
Jean, however, knew there were people willing and eager to support local bookstores. She just needed something else she could sell that was complementary to books and could support the business with a higher profit margin. While studying marketing at the University of Central Florida, Jean thought of the solution: wine.
“Wine and books have gone together since the dawn of time,” says Jean. “And there’s nothing I love more than reading with a glass of wine.”
So that’s how the idea for Vintage Bookstore and Wine Bar was born. By combining two things Jean loves — the books with low margins and the wine with supportive high margins — she had the beginnings of a feasible business plan that was financially sound and still felt like her dream coming true.
As Jean moved to Austin after college and then started working at Facebook, she kept working on her business plan, reiterating her dream and keeping it alive. She also learned more about and grew a deeper appreciation for wine. Jean was thrilled when she realized her new home was the perfect place to learn.
“I had no idea that Texas wine really was a thing when I moved here,” says Jean. “And then I discovered the Hill Country. I thought it was really neat how these families and small organizations here in Texas are producing such amazing wine.”
Thanks to incredible support from her family and colleagues at Facebook, after about five years of being in Austin, Jean was able to bring her dream from an idea to a concrete business plan. She opened her doors in October 2022, and has been overwhelmed by the support from the community she’s received thus far.
The building, originally built in the late 1800s, is on a bustling corner of East 11th Street. When you walk in, the tall ceilings, walls of colorful books and unpretentious wine bar invite you into what feels like an elegant yet cozy living room. The wine menu includes an array of varietals from around the world but always features a Texas winery. During her time spent in the Hill Country, Jean discovered how local passionate winemakers are working hard to produce great wines that are similar in quality to those in Europe. She wants to raise awareness in Austin about Texas wines, which are (to her surprise) not served at many local establishments.
The store has outdoor patios as well as several cozy rooms, each with a different theme, where patrons can curl up with a book and glass of wine. There is vintage furniture and art by local artists throughout the space — both of which are for sale. By allowing local vendors and artists to use her store as their own free showroom, more community is fostered through mutual support. Plus, they really round out the vintage aesthetic of the store. While the building, furniture and wine pay homage to the shop’s name, the books are new releases.
“Vintage things are popular because people like to take something old and then bring something new into it,” Jean explains. “So I think you can merge the new and the old and that’s what creates community and growth. And I think just because we’re curating an atmosphere that is well-loved and well-lived-in, it doesn’t mean we can’t also be on the forefront of the book industry. So I want to be welcoming and comfortable, while also being able to be cutting edge.”
Jean has been overwhelmed by the support she has received from the community. The store is already a vibrant community hub with a loyal following. Vintage Bookstore and Wine Bar is a testament to dreams coming true through belief, community and a little bit of magic.
RELATED: Check Out More of Our Favorite Bookstores in Austin