March 26, 2015

Elgin’s Not Just a BBQ (Pit) Stop

by Jenni Gritti

Fewer than 20 miles outside of Austin sits the seemingly quiet and unassuming town of Elgin, Texas. Complete with the quaint attractions expected of a nearly 200-year-old, small Central Texas cityincluding the Acme Brick Factory, a local history museum, ghost murals, and the annual swine-honoring Hogeye Festivalthe Sausage Capital of Texas would appear to be a typical sleepy, little city to the tens of thousands of motorists that pass through it annually. However, those that take the time to stop and explore often find more than they were looking for. With a budding downtown district, brimming with locally driven cultural and creative businesses, Elgin is redefining what it means to be a small Texas town.

Photo by Beth, Flickr CC

Longtime residents like Molly Alexander and Gary Luedecke, owners of two of downtown Elgin’s most successful storesThe Owl Wine Bar and Home Goods and G&M Drygoodsare helping lead the way in the small town’s revitalized scene. When they opened The Owl, a charming store offering a mix of unique vintage, quality home furnishings, accessories and gifts, in 2012, Elgin was struggling to attract businesses to the historic downtown district. “I always had a vision for what I wanted The Owl to be,” Alexander explains. “I knew I wanted to provide a place for residents and visitors alike to come in and feel right at home.”

Photo by Over Yonderlust, original article here.

After a few years time, Alexander and Luedecke’s vision for Elgin’s potential has been realized and with monthly events like Sip, Shop and Stroll, a community happening where downtown shops stay open late every second Thursday, allowing residents to get a glimpse into their favorite local businesses. With a proven increased interest in Elgin, as evidenced by the ever-growing turnout for gatherings like the local farmers market, it’s clear the downtown area is blossoming into a desirable destination for all.

Photo by Over Yonderlust, original article here.

By creating an interactive shopping experience that leaves the customer with both a memory and a unique new treasure for the home, Alexander and Luedecke’s shop The Owlwinner of the 2014 Best Downtown Business by the Texas Downtown Association and 2014 Business of the Year by the Elgin Chamber of Commercehas seen such overwhelming success they opened a sister store, G&M Drygoods, just a few hundred yards down the street. “G&M Drygoods picks up where The Owl leaves off,” Luedecke says. “We’ve had some great connections with wonderful vendors and wanted to showcase their high-quality work in a unique way. G&M Drygoods quickly became the place where we could sell their products without diluting the feel of The Owl.”

Photo by Hans Watson, Flickr CC

Alexander and Luedecke’s passion is contagious. Since opening The Owl and G&M Drygoods, the downtown district has been going through a quiet revival. Additional business from antique shops to clothing stores to apothecaries, a bustling local farmers market and the newly opened Elgin Local Goods Caféa foodie destination staffed by former Escoffier students that sources food from local farms, including Down Home Ranch, a working farm and ranch for people with Down syndrome and other disabilitiesare attracting more patrons to the downtown area.

Fresh, delicious fruits & vegetables at Elgin Local Goods.

“I think people are starting to realize that when they spend money Elgin, they’re not only supporting local business, they’re supporting growth,” Alexander explains. “With the hyperlocal movement starting to gain more ground in smaller communities, we’re starting to see a deeper connection between businesses and the people that support them.”

With more developments planned over the next few years, Elgin continues to add to what it offers future visitors and residents. The city is currently working with developers to create a central park area complete with an arbor walk, gardens, public art spaces, a public transportation hub and live entertainment area. The first phase is currently in negotiations and could break ground as early as 2016.

The Matchmaker Band performing at Elgin's Veterans Memorial Park.

The rural community is also incredibly film-friendly, with over three-dozen movies and television shows filmed in there since the mid-70s, including "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974), "What’s Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993), "A Scanner Darkly" (2006) and "The Transformers 4" (2013). Additionally, at least six times a year, companies like Google and Sprint have used downtown lofts to film commercials, made-for-television programs, and with independent and feature films. For more information regarding filming in Elgin, please contact amiller@ci.elgin.tx.us.

 About Elgin, Texas


Just a short trip down the road from Austin sits Elgin, otherwise known as the "Sausage Capital of Texas," because of the more than 3 million pounds of sausage that is produced each year, and the "Brick Capital of the Southwest," because of the three operating brick companies which produce more than 250 million bricks annually. The city’s downtown area is a National Register Historic District with most of the buildings (from 1872 to 1947) constructed of locally produced brick. Over the years, private property owners, business owners, and the public sector have invested approximately $12.9 million in the downtown area.

Photo by Joshua Bousel, Flickr CC

Elgin became a Texas Main Street city in 1990, a national approach to saving the town’s heritage by preserving historic downtown areas. Elgin has also been recognized as a Nationally Accredited Main Street Community every year since 1998, when the state of Texas began participating in this program. The City of Elgin offers group tours by appointment and hosts events throughout the year such as the Spring Music Series, Art Studio Tours, the July 4th Parade, the Hogeye Festival, Holiday by the Tracks, Western Days, and the River Valley Farmers Market every Saturday from 9am–1pm.

The Sowpremes at the Elgin Hogeye Festival.

About The Owl and G&M Drygoods


The Owl, Elgin's first home goods store and wine bar, offers unique vintage and second-hand furniture and a local option for happy hour and sampling boutique wines. The store, located in historic downtown Elgin, offers a variety of evening activities for locals who would prefer to stay close to home. The Owl’s namesake is inspired by an original ghost mural (circa 1900) of Owl Cigars that adorns the store’s wall was painted a year before the building was constructed, providing a stunning historic backdrop. The majestic mural was hidden for more than 90 years until 1990 when a film company shooting a television movie, "In Broad Daylight" revealed the historic artwork.

Photo by Over Yonderlust, original article here.

G&M Drygoods is a tastefully curated gift store, focusing on made-in-America gifts and accessories. G&M Drygoods opened its doors in 2014 and is just a few short steps from The Owl, bringing its signature style to downtown Elgin.

About Molly Alexander & Gary Luedecke


Molly Alexander is a resident of Elgin, TX and has been for over two decades. She owns and lives in a historic building in downtown Elgin and has held various positions with the city including Development Director for Elgin’s Economic and Community Development team.  She later became the City of Georgetown’s Convention & Visitors Bureau Director and then the Director of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.  Alexander owned her own start-up business in the early 2000s, and in 2003 she joined the Downtown Austin Alliance as their Associate Director. Her primary roles include downtown retail development, strategic planning, special projects, and organizational management.

Photo by Over Yonderlust, original article here.
 
Gary Luedecke is a 39-year veteran of the music business. His career has taken him all over the world touring with bands including Mickey Gilley, The SOS Band, Joe Ely, The Flatlanders, and Bob Schneider, among many others. Today he is the City of Austin's Chief Audio Engineer and works to deliver high-quality AV production for the city.



For more information or media inquiries, please call Jenni Gritti at (512) 904-9928 or email jenni@wyattbrand.com.

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