Weird Austin, as many of us know, is disappearing far too quickly. A decade ago, I remember South Lamar as a crooked street with quirky niches — my midnight adventure was trekking up Lamar from Ben White Boulevard toward downtown. In the darkness my daughter and I would park the car and walk to Gourdough’s food trailer. We’d sit under the stars eating doughnuts topped with cherry pie filling and whipped cream.
How quickly weird South Lamar morphed into an urban canyon. So many of those mysterious wonderful stretches have not survived Austin’s full-tilt population growth.
So imagine my delight when I discovered North Loop. Head north on Lamar out of downtown and look for it between 45th Street and Koenig Lane.
Somehow, after all these years of covering real estate at the Austin Business Journal I missed North Loop and the modest strip centers near Avenue F.
What a walk on the wild side.
Forbidden Fruit at 108 E. North Loop is a sex shop owned by women, according to its website, which also notes that it has received kudos from the Austin Chronicle as the “Best Lesbian Toy Store” and “Best Naughty Business.”
A couple doors down is Monkeywrench Books, which I visited while on the Austin Bookstore Crawl in April. A quiet revolution is unraveling in that little storefront operated by volunteers with a radical bent. Its tagline in a Google search is “Insurgent literature for aspiring partisans.” Did I feel out of my comfort zone? Yes, but weird Austin should do that, right?
Workhorse Bar, which used to be Nasty’s, is in that same line-up as are Ermine Vintage, Revival Vintage, North Loop Sign & Graphic Shop and Big Bertha’s Paradise.
Turn and look across the street. You’ll see Phara’s Mediterranean Cuisine and Christopher’s Casbah, a hookah lounge; plus Room Service Vintage, Bravado Dog Grooming and Neu Appliances.
Better check it out soon. There’s no telling how long this wild and wonderful swathe of weird will last. Property owners have their right to sell and make a profit. Most of the owners of these parcels have been around a long time. You know what that usually means — loads of equity.
Already there are hints of redevelopment to come in the neighborhood.
In May Austin homegrown Home Slice Pizza opened a classy brown brick restaurant designed by local “starchitect” Michael Hsu — just a couple blocks east of where North Loop seamlessly transforms into West 53rd Street. Other popular hangouts are nearby, including drink.well and Foreign & Domestic.
Who are the landowners invested in the bohemian vibe?
Thanks to Zonability founder Leigh Budlong for access to its mapping function, I was able to start my research.
Timmermann Properties, which was founded by long-time pharmacist Terrell Timmermann, owns numerous properties on North Loop. A graduate of University of Texas and operator of the former North Loop Pharmacy, Terrell and his wife Geraldine were savvy real estate investors dating back to the 1950s. They shared their wisdom, which trickles down to many others still in the business today.
“(Terrell) shared his knowledge and financial advice with many and helped influence many a life with his wisdom,” according to Timmermann’s obituary published in the Austin American-Statesman in October 2014.
The Timmermann family has held on to many North Loop properties, some which were acquired nearly 60 years ago, according to the Travis Central Appraisal District. A handful of properties, according to public records, have been conveyed to entities formed by son Barth Timmerman.
Several properties within the strip center have been sold separately over time to individual investors — all appear to be Austin based. The Forbidden Fruit store, for instance, is owned by Company 512 and had been for nearly 20 years, records show.
Recent transactions are few and far between. Robert Dunbar, who has owned 5304 Avenue F for 15 years, last year purchased parcels at 200 E. 53rd St. and 201 E. 53rd Street — R & D Motors occupies 200 E. 53rd Property and Van’s Banh Mi operates a food truck at 201 E. 53rd. A nice assemblage.
After a little digging, I’ve discovered that a small redevelopment is in the approval process at the city for a vacant property on North Loop that has seen better days. Will it keep North Loop weird? Stay tuned for more.