The cost of living in Austin may be on an upswing but just because you might have less money in your pockets doesn’t mean you have to compromise your lifestyle.
With gas prices rising above $4 per gallon, rents rising 25-40% and reports showing that Austinites pay more in household bills than any other Texas city, you may find yourself with less cheddar than you’re used to this time of year.
Aside from cutting back on spending, thrifting is a great way to stretch your dollar a little bit further. The average American spends $1,700 on clothes annually, of which 85% percent ends up in landfills, making secondhand shopping a greener, more affordable and nearly equally fashionable option.
These local secondhand emporiums sell most daily goods for a fraction of the price if you don’t mind a little wear.
Best antiques: Uncommon Objects, 1602 Fortview Rd.
You won’t find any clothing at Uncommon Objects but you will find oodles of objects from yesteryear to bring into your home. The store has been peddling items from “your eccentric uncle’s attic on steroids” since 1991, connecting Austinites with relics from the past. The items inside start at just a few dollars but range due to the great variety. Many of these items have passed through multiple hands–it doesn’t get greener than that!
Best for finding clothes on a budget: Texas Thrift, 5319 N Interstate Hwy 35
This enormous North Austin warehouse is packed with so many racks of secondhand clothing that it would be nearly impossible to go through them all in one visit. You’re probably not going to find a Gucci tracksuit or Christian Louboutins while you roam the racks but you’re almost certain to leave with at least one new-to-you article of clothing that fits your style for less than $10.
Best for fashionable finds: Uptown Cheapskate, multiple locations
Though it may be a bit more expensive than the run-of-the-mill thrift shop, Uptown Cheapskate is filled with gently used, name-brand clothing for a fraction of the new price. Uptown both buys and sells clothing released in boutiques within the last two years, meaning you’ll find brands like Free People, Zara, Nike and Patagonia in almost mint condition. Austonia reporter Claire Partain scored a pair of Steve Madden's last week for less than $15.
Best variety: Far Out Home Fittings, 1500 W Ben White Blvd.
With a full “Funkyard” out back, antiques, oddities, furniture, jewelry and knick knacks are Far Out Home Fittings’ specialty. This is not the place to come if you’re looking for something specific but if you’re open to a rummaging adventure, you’re likely to find something you didn't know you needed from furniture to jewelry to musical instruments. Our favorite Far Out finds: $5 gold chains, a vintage hand-crank whisk and long-forgotten lettering from signage.
Craft supplies: Austin Creative Reuse, 2005 Wheless Ln.
‘Waste not, want not’ would be a good tagline for Austin Creative Reuse, where you can find partially used art supplies that would have been thrown away otherwise. Looking to make your own clothes? ACR has shelves upon shelves of fabric and yarn for mostly less than a dollar per yard. Accessories? There are beads and thread aplenty. Scrap paper, paint, mosaics, magnets, zippers, glitter, findings in bulk and workshops to teach you how to be your craftiest self.
Furniture: Salvation Army, multiple locations
If you’re a fan of TikTok, you’ve probably wanted to try your hand at upcycling—repurposing objects in a way that makes it just as or more valuable than the original—at least once or twice and Salvation Army is the place to start. This store has everything: clothing, shoes, accessories, electronics, art and pieces of furniture that are begging to be made pretty again through a little TLC.
Vintage and variety fashion: Pavement, multiple locations
Racks on racks of modern and vintage mixed clothing await at Pavement, which is known for its legendary fill-a-bag sales. Meanwhile, its shoe and accessory walls are almost as spacious as its selection of clothing while maintaining a balance between current fashion and styles of yore. Clothing at Pavement isn’t the most affordable, but it will still bring you in lower than most prices at vintage and new clothing stores.
Matias Segura swept his hand across a whiteboard in his office at AISD headquarters, describing how an entrance vestibule works. It might remind you of a sally port at a prison. The vestibule is designed to protect our children from the active shooters who have plagued our nation since Columbine in 1999.
“You start with the signage,” he said. “You know exactly where the entrance is, and that’s for first responders too. We really want to make sure we keep up with visitor patterns. If they come in, they go through a system. Driver’s license, background check, which takes about a minute. We have a software system.”
AISD Director of Operations Matias Segura explains the overall school construction and what the entry vestibule looks like. (Rich Oppel)
The vestibule has two sets of locked doors. The exterior set has an audio-visual intercom, operated by a desk officer who has a view of visitor parking, the building approach and the vestibule. If allowed in, a visitor is buzzed through and then faces questioning and clearance by the desk officer. The visitor is given a card-reader pass. If a second person attempts to “trail in” behind another visitor, he is trapped in the vestibule until his status is determined. The second set of doors, into the main school building, remains locked and shut. It is open when students arrive in the morning.
Thus, the days of walking into the school, maybe waving at the principal’s executive assistant and strolling off to the cafeteria for lunch with your daughter are gone, a relic of a more bucolic time when “active shooters” were never imagined. But one must ask, what do we give up for greater safety?
Austinites remembered the Uvalde shooting victims in a vigil at the Texas Capitol in May. (Tony Fuentes)
Some critics argue that we are at risk of losing traditional values in the redesign of schools, courthouses, hospitals, churches and shopping centers. Writing in The Washington Post, architecture critic Philip Kennicott said the nation’s gun culture “threatens an essential precondition for democracy: its public space… Ideals of openness, flow, transparency and access will no longer be sustainable.”
Segura contemplates the question. At 41, he has held his job as AISD director of operations for four and a half years. Prior to that he was a consultant who led the team to build Austin’s new courthouse. His Austin and Texas roots are deep. He was born here, graduated from Bowie High, and went off to Lubbock to earn a degree in civil engineering from Texas Tech. He returned to secure an MBA at the University of Texas at Austin. He and his wife Joy Burson-Segura have two daughters who attend AISD schools. Segura said he and his operations team love AISD, care deeply about their work, and want citizens “to see us as partners.”
Back to what we lose in hardening the schools.
Segura says, “We think about students’ health. Having daylight, bringing light into a hardened facility, being able to access outdoor learning areas, (which is) hypercritical, especially in what we have learned in the pandemic.” Segura doesn’t like the idea of moats around schools (exotic, expensive) nor of classroom bomb shelters (what would teachers and students think about their looming presence?), efforts that are being tried elsewhere.
Healthcare workers receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the AISD Performing Arts Center in Mueller in 2021. (Jordan Vonderhaar)
AISD must juggle school security with the historic use of our schools for other purposes, such as voting, PTA-PTO meetings, community fairs, and, more recently, COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and food distribution. AISD does not want to end those uses, so the challenge is to design schools with separate rooms or places for those uses.
Clearly, Segura has thought about balancing conflicting equities. For him, it’s not all locked doors and blank brick or concrete walls. He stresses the importance of building a culture that includes shared responsibility of all school employees where, for example, a custodian could ask a stranger whether they have a visitor’s badge. All staffers should be well-trained in security measures, knowledgeable about new technology, and committed to working as a team to protect students, teachers and others. “We are working very, very hard on the culture,” he says. “Also, we need (financial) investment if we are going to move the needle.”
Kennicott, the Washington Post critic, quotes the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist and New York Democrat, who said, “Architecture is inescapably a political art, and it reports faithfully for ages to come what the political values of a particular era were. Surely, ours must be openness and fearlessness in the face of those who hide in darkness.”
But that was in 2001. What messages will Austin’s new public schools convey to future generations about our 2021 political values?
“First and foremost, these are education spaces that belong to our community. Our objective is to create incredible learning experiences for our students and at the same time ensure that the students and staff are safe.” He said he wants people to view schools as “inspired,” places where they would want to send their children. “Great things are happening in that space,” and that teachers see a place where they want to work and where they feel safe.
Voters in AISD will decide Nov. 8 on a $2.44 billion bond package to provide “funding for improvements to enhance safety, centers on equity, benefits every campus, and addresses affordability,” according to AISD officials.
Ever had sushi delivered to you on a conveyor belt or tried Ukrainian borsch?
If you're looking for a restaurant that shakes up your dinner, try one of these newly-opened options.
Conveyor belt sushi
For a fun, interactive twist on your typical sushi dinner, head to Kura Revolving Sushi Bar. Upon sitting down, you’ll have a conveyor belt to one side, where you can pluck whichever plate piques your interest, or a screen that allows you to order plates a la carte. You’ll pay by the plate, which tends to be less than a few dollars each, and win prizes if you hit the right milestones.
Korean Egg Toast
Serving all things egg, Egg Bomb opened earlier this month at 808 North Lamar Blvd., taking over the former Ola Poke location. Egg Bomb specializes in Korean egg drop sandwiches, with toppings like cheese, caramelized onions, avocado, salmon and condiments; “Egg Tots,” or fries with eggs and toppings, as well as coffee and sides. You can also find egg toast and squid ink hotdogs at Oh K-Dog.
Tortas at La Plancha
With a desire to fill the torta-shaped whole they saw in Austin’s fare, co-owning couple Mariha Hinojosa and Julian Richmond opened La Plancha, 1701 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, on July 1. The Mexican sandwiches are served on a bolillo bun with toppings including avocado, barbacoa, queso fresco, refried beans, cheese, pickles and salsa. There are other options: Think papas fritas, street corn and mini-churros.
Ukrainian cuisine to-go
You can take your chicken Kyiv to-to at new takeout-only restaurant U-Cuisine, 5610 N. I-35, which opened in mid-June. Ukrainian chefs and owners Alla Shelest and Mariana Shelestiuk said they are trying to bring a taste of their home country amidst a difficult time in history. Try the chicken Kyiv, a dill and parsley-stuffed chicken breast rolled in breadcrumbs; borsch, a burgundy beetroot soup; Holubtsi, beef and pork cabbage rolls; and lviv syrnyk, a chocolatey raisin cheesecake.
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