Support Austin, not Amazon

Instead of putting more money in Jeff Bezos’ pocket, shop local by supporting Austin businesses while staying safe

Wheatsville+Food+Co-op+is+a+small+local+grocery+that+has+been+in+Austin+for+45+years.+The+small+size+makes+it+an+ideal+option+for+safe+grocery+shopping+during+a+pandemic.

Samantha Powers

Wheatsville Food Co-op is a small local grocery that has been in Austin for 45 years. The small size makes it an ideal option for safe grocery shopping during a pandemic.

Samantha Powers, co-news editor, co-copy editor

Since the pandemic started, it has become a regularity to see an Amazon truck parked somewhere on my street. Everywhere I look, Amazon packages adorn the doorsteps of neighbors who fear venturing into the city for their shopping needs. This predicament isn’t uncommon, and I certainly understand people who feel that online shopping is the safest way. But what if I told you that your safe shopping doesn’t have to put more money in Jeff Bezos’ pocket? There are plenty of ways to stay safe while shopping local.

WHEATSVILLE CO-OP is a local grocery store that serves as a great alternative to Trader Joe’s or HEB. I used to go there with my mom all the time and push my kid-sized cart down the aisle, and I am proud to say that as a more fully-grown shopper Wheatsville is still a favorite of mine. It may lean a little healthy, but I encourage you to take a walk on the tofu and local veggies side of life and see where it gets you! Open since 1976, Wheatsville knows Austin.

TOMLINSON’S FEED has all of your pet care needs covered, and they know a thing or two. Family-owned for 75 years, Tomlinson’s is a local Austin staple. Tomlinson’s has multiple convenient locations in Austin, including right across the street from Lamar Middle School. Mac students, ask your Lamar siblings to stop by after school and pick up some treats for your pet! It offers free curbside pickup and free same-day delivery for all orders, so customers can stay safe and support the local economy while shopping for their pet right here in Austin.

Four generations of my family have owned and operated Tomlinson’s. … We’ve been here for 75 years, our goal is to be here for 75 more.”

— Kate Knecht, Tomlinson's team member

Kate Knecht is the fourth generation in the family that owns and operates Tomlinson’s. Her favorite thing about Austin is the people, who coincidentally make for great customers.

“I was born and raised here, so I’m a unicorn,” Knecht said. “My favorite thing about Austin is the people. People change, but no matter who’s coming through Austin or how long they’re here, Austin seems to have an effect on people that makes for friendly neighbors [and] people who care about local.”

Knecht’s family built Tomlinson’s with the idea that it would last, and they were right.

“Four generations of my family have owned and operated Tomlinson’s,” Knecht said. “So my dad, my grandfather [and] my great-grandmother all worked. I think what we’re building, what we want to build, is a business that provides lasting value. That’s kind of cheesy, but you know. Some people go into business to build something and sell it, and that’s great, but that’s not really why we’re in business. We’ve been here for 75 years, our goal is to be here for 75 more.”

Knecht said that what’s special about a local pet care business like Tomlinson’s is the attention to detail that it is able to provide in the quality of products, which sets it apart from larger corporations.

“We’re different from a lot of other stores like PetSmart, PetCo, even Chewy.com, in that we work really hard to curate a selection of products that are only of the highest quality,” Knecht said. “So you can go into any of our stores or go online and know that anything you take home is going to be top quality and something that anyone on our team would be proud to feed their pet.”

Tomlinson’s offers free curbside pickup as well as free same-day delivery. It’s been delivering since 2019, but things shifted when the pandemic hit.

Tomlinson’s is a family-owned Austin business that has been around for 75 years. Kate Knecht says that her family business will be around for 75 more years, and that starts with its seamless transition into the pandemic. “I think what we’re building, what we want to build, is a business that provides lasting value,” Knecht said.

“We offered online ordering beginning in 2019, and we used a third-party service to deliver our orders,” Knecht said. “And then when the pandemic hit, understandably, we had nobody coming into our stores, and we had staff standing around bored. And we were paying this third-party service to deliver our orders, so pretty much overnight, we rolled out our own in-house delivery suite. Our employees are super game, and they jumped in their cars and grabbed orders and started delivering them to customers, and so overnight a bunch of our store staff turned into delivery drivers, and the rest is history.”

Knecht said that when the pandemic hit, contrary to a lot of other businesses, Tomlinson’s received an influx of sales in the midst of shortages at big businesses.

We are forever grateful to the huge outpouring of folks who continue to shop us during this pandemic. Our business is strong and resilient due to the community’s outstanding patronage.”

— Mahin Barker, president of Breed and Company

“I believe it was the weekend of March 14, I think the pandemic was declared a pandemic on the 12th or 13th,” Knecht said, “then things really started to heat up that weekend and everybody was kind of panic-buying–one thing that we didn’t expect was, we had a lot of people coming into our stores for the very first time saying, ‘Look, I normally get my stuff from Chewy, or normally I get my stuff from HEB, and they’re totally out, or they can’t ship to me for another three weeks, so what do you got?’ And we were able to serve those customers.”

These newfound customers who decided to come to the light side of shopping local stuck around once they saw what good service Tomlinson’s has to offer. 

“Of course, since then, some of these other competitors have ramped up their supply chain systems, and that’s no longer a problem,” Knecht said. “But those customers that came into our store early in the pandemic needing help, we were able to help them and they stuck around. So we’re grateful for that.”

For all you dads out there, BREED AND COMPANY can help with all of your hardware needs. Forget huge fluorescent-lit corporations like Home Depot, Breed and Company is family-owned and can supply you with anything you need. My dad can attest to that.

“We are forever grateful to the huge outpouring of folks who continue to shop us during this pandemic,” said Mahin Barker, president of Breed and Company, in an email. “Our business is strong and resilient due to the community’s outstanding patronage.”

Tomlinson’s offers free curbside and same-day delivery, a service that was made in-house when the pandemic began. This is just one of the adjustments that Tomlinson’s has made to ensure that their customers’ experience is as safe as possible.

END OF AN EAR RECORDS is more of a niche company. In the digital age, buying records is less of a necessity and more of a special treat. But when in Austin, do as Austinites do, right? End of an Ear offers curbside pickup and mail order, and their online library is very extensive, especially for a local store.

Owner Dan Plunkett is the embodiment of old Austin.

“I moved here in 1981–loved the City since I first moved here–the people, the climate, and just the surrounding area,” Plunkett said in an email. “Easy to get to Houston, Dallas, San Antonio et cetera. I always loved record stores since I was a kid, and I just naturally fell into it somehow.”

End of an Ear has thrown itself into the safest possible methods for shopping during a pandemic.

 

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“We are doing limited appointments now,” Plunkett said. “We do a lot of curbside and mail-order business as well. The main focus was to make sure the employees are all healthy and comfortable and we moved fixtures and work areas to spread everyone out. We expanded our webstore, and [we are] constantly improving it.”

Plunkett explained that the business is for the customers and by the customers, and he appreciates their continued support.

“We have had great support from our customers who have continued to shop our webstore, Instagram or just emailing about items,” Plunkett said. “We just take it week by week. Our business has pivoted to face the challenges of how to have folks remain safe while still being able to enjoy buying records to enjoy at home.”

So next time you’re in need of a shopping spree, whether it be for some last-minute pet food, the perfect-sized washer to go with some screws you have laying around, or an indulgence in record-shopping, skip that “add to cart” button and shop local instead.