A new clothing store opening on Austin Avenue aims to bring classic style and timeless fashion to downtown Waco.
Wildland Supply Co. is holding its grand opening Tuesday at 806 Austin Ave., offering women’s clothing and gifts like leather handbags, herbal-scented soy candles, and cooking and design books.
The store’s clothing selection currently includes sweaters, flannel shirts, plush cardigans and jeans, mostly in warm neutral colors.
“I want to sell you your favorite things, that you can wear forever, that will hold up, that are kind of timeless,” 28-year-old owner Kate Parker Duncan said. “I’ll have some trendy things, but a lot of my stuff is super classic. That’s what I’m drawn toward, because if I’m going to spend money on something, I want to use it for a long time.”
The store’s name is taken from a blog she writes called “The Wildland,” which chronicles her experiences renovating an old mansion she and her husband purchased near Cameron Park last year.
“Wildland is uninhabited territory . . . It kind of means, to me, doing something different and new in the place that you are, and that felt like what I was doing here,” Duncan said.
Located just off the corner of Eighth Street and Austin Avenue, the store sits in an area primed to broaden entertainment and shopping options downtown, including the newly remodeled Waco Hippodrome.
The clothing store neighbors the historic Stratton building, which is planned to become a multiuse complex featuring residential lofts, a pub, a coffee bar and art gallery space.
An upscale bar and lounge called Dreamz is set to open in the vacant space next to Wildland Supply Co. within the coming months.
“I feel like I’m well-connected, just by my neighbors,” Duncan said about nearby bars, clubs, a salon and other apparel outlets. “I like the scene, the nightlife here.”
Megan Henderson, executive director of the Waco Downtown Development Corp., said the development along the 800 block of Austin Avenue could pave the way for more businesses to eventually fill out vacant storefronts along the entire corridor to connect with more established places like Sironia, Honey’s Home+Style, and Lane’s on Austin on the upper end of the street.
“It’s a matter of critical mass,” Henderson said. “It’s going to take a long time to take one business and the success of one business, and parlay that into two or three businesses. But six or seven or 10 successful businesses, that sends off additional businesses much faster . . . that’s how commercial business happens.”
Investment in downtown has grown drastically in the past few years, from restaurants like Jake’s Texas Tea House and Portofino’s to bars like Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits and Kuma, as well as other clothing stores like B Joy Bijoux and Melange Boutique.
Henderson pointed out that the city has supported several Austin Avenue businesses with Tax Increment Fund grants, including Pura Vida Spa on the 700 block, the Kress Building and Woolworth Suites buildings on the 600 block, and the Hippodrome renovation. That, along with investments from developers and community buy-in for the new businesses, has helped spur the area’s expansion, she said.
“I think there has been a concerted decision by this community to emphasize downtown and to put their resources where their will is,” Henderson said.
Duncan, who grew up in Waxahachie, relocated to Waco three years ago as her husband, Cory, a real estate developer and Waco native, began working on his master’s of business administration at Baylor University.
Austin to Waco
She holds a bachelor’s degree in retail merchandising from the University of Texas at Austin and spent two years working at clothing store Anthropologie, creating displays and managing merchandise.
“I felt really at home in Austin, and so I decided to bring something that I thought would sit well in Austin to Waco,” Duncan said.
For Wildland, Duncan said she researched clothing brands online and in a Fashion Market show in Los Angeles, seeking out items that reflected a casual, classic aesthetic. She even discovered some apparel items through the social website Pinterest.
The classic, minimalist theme also extends to the decor. Duncan used contractors to renovate the facade and interior of the building, build wood platforms for window displays, and remove a dropped tile ceiling, which, to her surprise, revealed vintage stamped metal ceiling panels and intricate crown molding.
Duncan said her dad built the store’s wood check-out counter, and he and she together built copper racks to hang the clothes.
Duncan expects to keep adding to the store in the coming weeks, including creating a lounge seating space near the dressing rooms to accommodate groups and an apothecary featuring bath and beauty care items.
She hopes to eventually offer men’s clothing, adding to a men’s accessories section that includes books, earthy-scented candles and canvas tote bags.
But she’s anxious to welcome her first customers after spending four months prepping for the store’s opening.
“I’ve lived here for three years, so finally I was like, ‘This is it. Do it, just jump off the bridge,’ ” Duncan said of her store launch. “That’s what this felt like, jumping off a bridge, but in a good way. To do something like this, you have to believe in it and just do it.”