Quirky culture that’s all about business

Not far below Austin’s celebrated “weirdness” is a quirky streak of entrepreneurship and a passion for locally owned businesses.

You can see a lot of it in south Austin, where old buildings are constantly being repurposed by entrepreneurs with their own creative vision of the American dream. For example, a restaurant in an old gas station that still looks a lot like a gas station.

Along one big street is a billboard with a picture of Thomas Edison that says, “On the 10,000th time, there was light.”

Some of the quirkiest businesses are along South Congress Avenue. It’s a broad street with a commanding view of the state capitol dome in the distance. On each side of this avenue on a hill, there’s a funky collection of businesses, many in storefronts from the 1950s.

Where else can you see an old Airstream trailer rehabbed as a cupcake stand? A Japanese fast food restaurant next to an ice cream stand down the street from a Western wear store, jewelry boutiques and a psychodelic costume shop called “Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds.” And then there’s the Magnolia Cafe, whose sign proudly proclaims: “Sorry we’re open.” On the first Thursday of each month, South Congress merchants stay open late and have special events for their customers. It’s not just a shopping district: It’s an experience.

Photos/Tom Eblen

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