On Saturday I tried to patron only small, locally-owned businesses. I was in Austin, small-business capital of the world, so this didn’t prove to be too difficult. I started off my day at Austin Java on Lamar. This coffee shop was one of my favorite places to work or study when I lived in Austin, and on Saturday morning it was juuuust warm enough to sit outside and enjoy my mocha as I wrote ad copy for a decidedly not-small, un-local business. I love Austin Java because they use real mugs, buy locally-grown produce, and recycle and reuse as much as they are able. I really appreciate small businesses that also try to be green, which can be pretty expensive when you don’t have the buying power of a giant national chain.
Then I headed a few blocks south to Book People, an amazing bookstore that specializes in great staff recommendations. I met Elizabeth Edwards at a book signing here a few years ago, before it turned out that she was kind of a b*tch and also kind of crazy, and that her husband was a philandering fool. I still have my signed copy of Saving Graces. I’m holding on to that thing forever. After wandering around Book People for a small eternity and consulting with not one but two friendly and extremely helpful staff members, I finally settled on two books. I was supposed to be Christmas shopping but had a hard time focusing on present-shopping. I got a book for my mom but also a book for myself, heh.
After I depleted my bank account buying books I didn’t need, I met up with my hetero-life-partner Amy for brunch at Juan in a Million. This place, a much-beloved local taqueria on the east side of Austin, is famous for their Don Juan breakfast burrito. I ordered it with four tortillas, thinking I would eat the leftovers for breakfast the next day. The amount of food they brought me was staggering, especially considering the whole thing cost about $4. I ate it for dinner that night AND breakfast the next morning, and I believe there is still some left in my parent’s refrigerator. Just thinking about Juan in a Million makes me homesick. It’s a run-down hole-in-the-wall in a small, working-class Hispanic neighborhood. The restaurant itself used to be a house, and as you’re led to your table you get a tour of the labyrinthine structure, winding past clapboard additions and the mish-mash outdoor seating. The food is yummy, the waitstaff is fast and diligent with the drink refills, and the clientele is as diverse as Austin itself. You just don’t get an experience like that at some place like Chili’s.
I know it can be more expensive to buy local, and I’m certainly guilty of frequenting retail giants like Target or Dominick’s, but I try to patron local places when I’m able. After all, I shudder to think about what Austin or Chicago would look like if there were nothing but McDonald’s and Corner Bakeries to eat at and nowhere but Walmart and Target to shop.