Entrepreneur and real estate developer Steve Simmons keeps sweeping up properties in Smithville and converting them into dandy spaces.
The latest is the conversion of an old feed store at 110 NW 2nd St. into an ultra-chic Consuela store with a distinctive Old West vibe.
Consuela is the national accessory brand from Conni Reed. The flagship store couldn’t be located in a more quintessential Austin location — 912 Congress Ave. in the shadow of the State Capitol.
But Reed obviously wants to spread the cachet of her brand to a bucolic burg.
“Amy and Conni are friends and she loves Smithville,” Simmons said.
Amy, of course, is Steve’s wife and the beloved namesake of Amy’s Ice Creams, one of Austin’s iconic brands.
“We showed Conni the building when it was under contract and she helped with the renovation,” Steve explained.
It’s a very appealing space, as you can see from the accompanying photos.
My daughter Kira and I cruised from our house in Lockhart over to Smithville a weekend ago and met Steve at Honey’s Pizza — a restaurant the couple owns in Smithville along with Coach Q’s sports bar.
In between handshaking with a steady stream of customers, Steve talked about any and all topics related to real estate and business.
Like many others he’s worried about Austin mom-and-pop stores. Property taxes are starting to take them out of the game. He should know.
Steve and Amy have developed Austinville retail centers in Northwest Austin and on South Lamar. A primary objective, in addition to building spaces for Amy’s Ice Creams and the affiliated Phil’s Ice House, is to provide affordable storefronts for local purveyors.
That’s still Steve’s preferred method for supporting local businesses, but property taxes have to be passed along to tenants, standard operating procedure in commercial real estate — that is, if you want to stay in business yourself.
Out of curiosity, I checked out the property values at Austinville 78750 adjacent to the iFly facility on Research Boulevard. Based on data at the Williamson Central Appraisal District, the 5,000-square strip center was valued at $1,725,000 when completed and leased in 2014. Market value for 2018 is pegged at $2,228,523, a 33 percent increase in four years.
But that’s Williamson County. Austinville 78704 in South Austin shows property values have doubled since 2013. Property taxes have taken flight and are sucking the wind out of small business.
Despite the financial challenges in Austin’s retail sector, Amy’s Ice Creams has another store in the works at 2002 Manor Road but this is not a full-on development investment.
“Manor is a lease with a longtime Austin property owner that loves the Austinville concept,” Steve said. “We expect to be open by October.”
Amy’s at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, meanwhile, will get a major makeover soon.
“The airport (remodel) will begin construction August 15, and should be completed in 90 days,” Steve said.
Despite all the activity in the city, Steve’s passion for Smithville — about an hour away — shows no signs of waning. Though the couple have their Austin home base in the Bryker Woods neighborhood, Steve spends most of his time tending to the family’s 80-acre ranch southwest of Smithville. That’s where you’ll find him most days, holding court with 80 head of cattle.
Occasionally, he’ll head into corporate headquarters — a 5,300-square-foot office building on West Anderson Lane that the company purchased from the Texas Quarter Horse Association in 2014.
Next on his radar is welcoming another well-known Austin business to Smithville — Micklethwait Craft Meats. The renovation across the street from Honey’s looks beautiful. The smell of smoked meats should waft through town beginning in September.
Ronald Chang, owner of Chinatown in Austin, also has plans for a restaurant on Main Street. Foodies, get ready.
Steve has other projects up his sleeve, as well, that we’ll have to wait to learn more about.
“Big Sky Ranch got its first comments back and should have a plat by the end of the year. Creekside RV Park should break ground by the end of the year.”
You heard it from the town crier — residential is in the wings. Nice going, Steve!