With the Downtown Austin Alliance’s (DAA) recent announcement that national retailers Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. and Patagonia have selected Congress Avenue to open shop we think it’s official: downtown Austin is evolving into Austin’s premier shopping destination.
Jos A. Bank Clothiers Inc. is a publicly traded, mid-priced men’s retail store specializing in business and casual dress, accessories and footwear. The chain has three other locations in the Austin area, and the new store will open at 322 Congress in the Koppel Building in June.
Patagonia is the leading outdoor clothing manufacturer and environmental advocate retailer in the United States. The company uses 100 percent organic cotton for all Patagonia-branded apparel and offers products ranging from sports apparel and layering items to sport-specific equipment and accessories.
While numerous eco-friendly stores in Austin carry Patagonia merchandise, the chain will open its first Texas retail store in a 7,000 square foot space at 316 Congress in the historic W.B. Smith Building this fall. Remaining true to their eco-friendly principles, the company chose to restore the building back to its original state rather than build a new structure. The building, with its heavy foot traffic and close proximity to Lady Bird Lake’s hike-and-bike trails, is the perfect location for Patagonia to offer sport-specific products catered to Austin’s outdoor recreational activities.
So the news of all this downtown retail growth sparked our curiosity. Of all the shopping destinations in Austin, why downtown? We checked in with Molly Alexander, associate director of the Downtown Austin Alliance for some answers.
Us: What do these new national retailers mean for downtown? What conclusions can be drawn about the additions?
Molly: The Downtown Austin Alliance is extremely excited to welcome some of our newest national tenants – Patagonia and Jos. A Bank – to Congress Avenue. The fact that they have chosen to locate their businesses here signifies that people are now looking at Congress Avenue as a place where retail can thrive. The retailers that have been on Congress Avenue for years, like Authenticity Gallery, Keepers Clothing and Enchante, were true pioneers. They believed in the vision of bringing retail back to the street. With the addition of these two nationals, we’re likely to see the retail momentum on Congress Avenue continue to gain steam. Together, Congress Avenue, the Second Street and Market retail districts, and the East Sixth Street historic and entertainment district provide the community with a host of exceptional retail options.
Us: What does the DAA plan to accomplish with this new mix of national, regional and local retailers in the area?
Molly: The DAA acts as a “matchmaker” between property owners and quality retailers that meet our merchandizing mix strategy. We focus on recruiting a diverse mix of retail businesses to create a uniquely-Austin shopping experience downtown. For retail to thrive, it is important to have a healthy mix of quality national, regional and local retailers. Nationals help support the local retail base, and vice versa. National businesses can leverage their larger marketing budgets to attract people to their stores in downtown. And, once people are in the area, they’re likely to shop at the local stores as well.
Us: What does the DAA look for when courting retailers to the downtown area?
Molly: We search for retailers that have an interesting product, feature a strong inventory and offer multiple price points. And most importantly, we’re looking for retailers that are a good fit for downtown Austin. We ask ourselves, “Will this business enhance the overall downtown experience? Will the product be appealing to people who live, work and play in downtown every day? Will it attract visitors?” We also seek out creative entrepreneurs who have proven to be successful in other ventures, and work with them to create a new concept for the downtown market.
Downtown Austin Alliance, we (downtown residents) salute you!