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Shop Local: Austin’s Indie Business Districts

Posted by Sharon Rosshirt on Thursday, February 16th, 2017 at 12:28pm.

Why Shop Local

We always hear that it is important for us to shop locally but have you ever wondered what the impact on the community is by doing so?  When you shop locally every $100 that you spend yields about $45 for the local economy.  When you shop at a big box store, however, $100 will only yield about $13 of local economic growth.  With this in mind, I wanted to share some of the great – locally sourced – shopping districts that can be found right here in Austin.

Since 2004 the Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) has worked to create Independent Business Investment Zones – IBIZ Districts – throughout Austin.  Each of these districts is required to maintain certain local, independent standards.

  • The districts must be 75% locally owned business – currently, this percentage is closer to 95% -100% local.
  • They must contain between 20 and 100 businesses.
  • No more than one mile in walkable distance.

Rainey Street

Rainey Street is located between Driskill and River Streets near the heart of downtown Austin. What was once a quiet street filled with modest bungalows has exploded into one of Austin’s most popular destination districts.  Filled with local watering holes and restaurants the businesses in this area have tons of unique character.

You can find all types of food on Rainey including standard fare like burgers and salads but there is also a wealth of culinary specialty spots to visit.  Featuring food like seasonal sausages, traditional Mexican and Indian cuisine along with a variety of food truck goodness you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy here.

If you are looking for a good local brew you need to look no further!  Many of the bars in this district provide samples of craft beer from tons of microbreweries from Texas and beyond.

North Loop

Just north of the University of Texas campus, you can find this tight-knit enclave of niche boutiques offering vintage clothing, vinyl records, books, music, and more.  North loop refers to itself as the “Black Sheep of the IBIZ Shopping Districts”.  The North Loop IBIZ District holds annual Spring Sidewalk Sales, Fall Block Parties and Holiday Shopping Nights in December.


West Lynn

West Lynn is a quiet tree-lined oasis just a couple of miles north of bustling downtown Austin.  West Lynn businesses provide many everyday services including groceries, dry cleaning, salons, veterinary services, and Austin’s last old time soda fountain which is located in the neighborhood pharmacy.


North Drag

As the name implies,  you can find the North Drag district situated right next to the University of Texas’ Drag.  This area is a gathering place for students, tourists, and locals of all stripes.

Here you will find Music venues, eateries, and boutiques.  As areas surrounding this district become more mainstream the North Drag continues to be filled with long time locally owned business.  Many of these businesses have been here for 25 years or more!

It is very easy to spend a day browsing vintage fares like clothing and records but there are also lots of specialty shops that sell handmade goods, body art, beauty products, hardware and more.  This district feels very dense and you won’t have to walk far to find your next treasure.


Lo-Burn

Burnet Road has been growing in leaps and bounds over the last two years.  Centrally located between downtown and North Austin the Lo-Burn District has tons of fun and exciting experiences in store.  Many of the thrift shops in this area support local non-profits.

If you are hungry after visiting the districts many shops there are plenty of options to choose from.  You’ll find contemporary fine dining, ethnic food, coffee shops, bakeries, craft beer, and more in this popular Central Austin strip.

Tourist tip: If you want to blend in with the locals, this street is pronounced “Burn-it”. You will give yourself away if you say “Burn-ette”.


East Sixth

East sixth is located on the opposite side of I-35 from it’s notorious brother “Dirty 6th”. While this area had languished during the 1960’s it has been experiencing a bit of it’s own little renaissance in recent years.  Home to many of downtown Austin’s oldest local establishments this district has lots of great lunch spots, coffee shops, and galleries for you to enjoy.  At night this area really comes to life and becomes a hub for social gathering.  East sixth also boasts one of Austin’s most renowned food trailer parks there is an abundance of unique flavors for you to enjoy for dinner.


East End

Located on East 11th Street and Rosewood Avenue this district is a mix of rich cultural history and newer locally owned businesses.  Restaurant and bar patios abound which are great for the hot summer nights in Austin.  There are also several great museums to visit like the Texas Music Museum and the Carver Museum.

This inviting district is great for taking a stroll and visiting local boutique shops, eateries, and entertainment venues.  There are also several restaurants and food trailers to choose from including the world famous Franklin’s BBQ (be prepared to wait!).


South First

South First is definitely the largest of the IBIZ Districts and features nearly 100 locally owned businesses.  With it’s specialty boutiques, bakeries and coffeehouses this is a vibrant year-round shopping destination.

If art is your passion you’ll have no trouble finding an abundance of local street art everywhere you look.  Murals and sculptures not only line the street, but are tucked into side yards and back allies, adding to the funk mix that gives this District its distinct personality.


If you would like to learn more about the Austin IBIZ Districts be sure to visit their website.

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