Atown embraces uniqueness of Austin

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ATown sales associate Sunnie Reagin arranges clothes at the boutique on Tuesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Mary Kang | Daily Texan Staff

Austin’s aesthetic is that of a place where countless, seemingly disparaging styles converge. While this is usually the product of a virtual shopping scavenger hunt, Atown attempts to put a little bit of everything in one place. At its grand opening Friday, it unveiled itself as not just a boutique but an homage to all things Austin.

Atown is a self-described Austin lifestyle store. Although a seemingly vague claim, Atown seems to be covering all the bases.

“It’s really about embracing the Austin aspect of it and not just fashion,” said Jenni Charles, Atown’s manager and creative director.

The store is owned by Robert and Lisa Willenzik, the two UT graduates behind boutiques Luxe Apothetique and Blue Elephant. Charles joined up with the owners to help achieve their vision of Atown as an Austin entity.

“I was a general manager at Michael Kors,” Charles said. “It was a great job, but I really just love being involved in the Austin community. It’s a totally different pace, and for me, it’s so much better than being in the corporate scene.”

Though Atown has been open for two months since its soft opening in mid-July, last Friday marked the grand opening. July and August are pretty quiet with people out of town and students away, so this was Atown’s kickoff, Charles said.

Keeping things in the Austin vein, Atown curates a substantial collection of local art and goods.

“We go to market for things like candles, cards and summer dresses and the like,” Charles said. “But we also have goods from over 100 local designers and artists from paintings to jewelry to soaps to anything you can imagine — and I’m getting new stuff almost every day.”

According to Charles, the store’s expansive size gives Atown the opportunity to set itself apart with variety.

“We can bring on a lot more talent than a lot of stores,” Charles said. “Other stores that just don’t have the space.”

For Charles, the artists really make the store.

“I love talking to them and hearing the story and inspiration behind their talent,” she said. “When a customer asks about the local art, I feel like I can speak to it a little bit more because it’s not just a product — there’s a person and a meaning behind it that makes it special.”

As far as the selection is concerned, the store is an eclectic smattering of styles. Mostly, the idea is to support the local artisan community.

“All of the artists bring something unique to the table, and that’s why we love to support them,” Charles said. “Most of them have full-time jobs, and they are doing this on top of it — I have no idea how they do it.”

Every Wednesday night, Atown plays host to live, local music performances.

“It’s just another thing we’re doing to embrace Austin and something very important in Austin — the music scene,” Charles said. The music style varies each week, from Shirley Johnson’s world music to all-around cover band Love Generator.

The store also plans to give back by partnering with different local charities and schools through monthly events. At the grand opening, Atown raised $400 for Austin Pets Alive through a raffle of more than 45 artist donations. Each month, they plan to collaborate with a different community or school organization. Events aside, Atown plans to put a full-service salon in the back of the store in the spring.

“We’re still ironing out the details,” Charles said. “We’ve only been open for two months, so we’re trying to get a feel for who our clientele is and get through the holidays before we tackle new projects.”

Although the store seems to be a smorgasbord of every ‘Austin’ imaginable, at its core, the focus is on the artists.

“I’ll run a business all day long, but I am not artistic so I admire them,” said Charles. “They’re so passionate, and it’s really cool to see that.”

Printed on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 as: Boutique embodies Austin's eclectic side.