In our 5 Shops series, we'll point you in the direction of our favorite independent shops across some of the world's best cities. From food markets to bookshops, vintage and homegrown design, we've found a diverse and exciting mix of local retailers where you can pick up one-of-a-kind pieces.

The 'Keep Austin Weird' mantra couldn't scream more relevant than it does today as ATX rapidly modernizes with a scarily cookie-cutter skyline. Despite being the capital, it used to be Texas' odd place out, where quirky creatives blended with Texas' progressive student and queer community. But now, you can't really wander past shiny Soul Cycle and Marriott chains and say Austin's still the same 'weird'.

I think the city retains something special though: its people. The long-time locals who support indie to the core and fight to keep the little guys open alongside big brand names and 'awarded' restaurants. These folks wait till Saturday morning for groceries at SFC Farmer's Market, partake in Taco Tuesdays at hole-in-the-wall taquerias, and of course, shop for passion and quality.

As a Texas guidebook writer, I scope out these beloved independent businesses they frequent and champion them to those looking for one-of-a-kind purchases that reflect original Austin. Here are my favorite places to support talented, and incredibly deserving, local artisians. 

LGBTQ-friendly products on display in The Little Gay Shop, Austin

Best for souvenirs: The Little Gay Shop

The rainbow is ingrained here more than anywhere else in the state, making it the ultimate haven for the queer community. The Little Gay Shop carries items that symbolize what this city has meant for them, and for anyone else in Texas that's a little bit different. Y'all are welcome here, no matter what the government says.

The store, now on East 12th, brings together the work of the LGBTQIA+ community and gives them fair recognition and compensation. The standouts are the original and limited works of art. We all know art is expensive, but the owners believe in making it accessible and you'll often discover affordable pieces from emerging queer artists. There are also plenty of prints and posters for something lower commitment. My favorite is the 'Y'all Means All' ($15) which perfectly sums Austin up.

Jewelry makers at work in studio

Best for local design: Nina Berenato Jewelry

I’ve been raving about Nina Berenato’s creations for years, but clearly I’m not the only one. Texas superstars like Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion are devotees. You’ll find Nina and her all-girl team in North Austin, at The Domain shopping center. The 1900 sq ft store is filled with natural light to beautifully showcase each handmade earring, necklace, bracelet and ring, and messages of empowerment are emblazoned across the walls and floor as the ladies work their magic at the open studio out back.

To make it more of an occasion, shoppers can customize their own bracelet in-person at the bracelet bar, or pick up gifts and apparel from Nina’s favorite independent designers. For a true statement piece, pick up her lip-to-chin cuff ($50) as worn by actress, Angelina Jolie.

Turntables, CDs and records on display at Waterloo Records, Austin

Best for vintage: Waterloo Records

Waterloo Records is an Austin institution, opened in 1982 back when this was a sleepy lil’ town, not the metropolis it is today. Very little has changed. You can still listen to an album before purchase without worrying about shrink wrap. With thousands of used and new vinyl, DVDs, memorabilia, and pretty much every genre of music available, there have been times I’ve spent hours here without realizing. For me, it’s as if it’s 1994 and there’s no reason to rush off.

Look out on their store events page for regular artist signings and live sets. You’ll discover something new and have a keepsake of your ATX experience. Or simply pick up a classic Willie Nelson vinyl ($25), one of Waterloo’s greatest performers.

Baked goods and flowers on display in Walton's Austin

Best for food: Walton's Fancy & Staple

Walton's may be owned by a Hollywood star (aka Austin adoptee, Sandra Bullock), but it's full of down-to-earth local charm. The café is wildly popular at weekend brunch, but they don't take reservations, so get here early. The bread really is as good as it smells: baked fresh on-site, you'll want to get some to go.

I love perusing the local products on the shelves while I wait for a table. They sell fresh cut flowers, potted plants, tote bags, Curvee Coffee, and there's a tempting sweet treats cabinet packed with macarons and cakes that start from as little as $2. Let's just say I always give into temptation.

Books on display in BookWoman Austin

Best for books: BookWoman

Texas law in recent years has riled a lot of Austinites up, so we're especially keen to support businesses that proudly lead the way for local activism. BookWoman is a feminist bookstore that has been making Texan Herstory for almost 50 years.

Book lovers will find here a huge selection of literature, ranging indie novels to celebrity biography, all handpicked by a thoughtful feminist team. The special book-themed events always bring the community together, including a signing by Trans Handy Ma'am, Mercury Stardust, whose book Safe and Sound ($25) guides girls through basic maintenance issues like plumbing, electrical, carpentry, and safety needs, allowing them to take a traditionally male-dominated solution into their own hands.

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