If you have lived in Austin for any length of time, I am certain that you have passed the Say Hi store at Burnet and North Loop. I have been passing it for 38 years. In all that time, I never knew what it was, never went in, and always wondered about it.
Today, I went in. I was looking for a unique birthday present and thought Say Hi might have what I was looking for. They did. I met the storekeeper who gracefully said "This is my wife's store, not mine" and told me that Say Hi opened in 1974. He also told me that he would be gone in 6 months, closing the store and retiring.
Say Hi may be the purest remaining old Austin institution. Clearly they are not in it to get rich. Instead, they have held down that corner at North Loop and Burnet for 42 years without change.
That space will likely become a new-Austin bar or restaurant, which is not bad but it is the turning over of the city into something else door-by-door.
I demand that the first craft beer served in whatever becomes in that location be poured out in honor of Mr and Mrs Say Hi.
I suppose that it is the power of Austin that certain names are considered to be such institutions that they have not only survived for many years, they even close, change owners and even business models, and then reopen but having the same name. Here are a few:
Poodle Dog Lounge
Deep Eddy Cabaret
I had the need to drive down to SA a few days back and as I flew past Onion Creek, a memory back back pretty strong: DE Crumley's Store on the west side of the freeway. Crumley's had been there forever and it must have taken many years to accumulate the decorations (junk, that is) that was everywhere in and around the store. I remember stopping in there regularly on tubing trips to stock up for the day. Here's a good pic:
I worked with a bunch of like-minded young people at the Good Food Store in the early 70's. I remember the main store on West 6th where Corezon Restaurant is now. There were also stores on W. 29th and on North Loop. Anyone else have memories of the Good Food Stores?
Anybody remember SAGE on Airport by Highland Mall? Heard where SAGE stood for Serves All Gov't Employees, that it started out as serving gov't personnel only but then served the general public. Don't know if this was the case with the Austin store. Anyone know? They had EVERYTHING, including a liquor dept. My mom used to get all her cosmetics there. Think they had a pretty cool toy dept., too.
I loved this place. It was on the east side of Congress around the 300 or 400 block. Loved the smell and looking at all the unique things there. My dad bought me my first rifle there from Smokey. He ran the gun department and everybody went to see Smokey. I still have that rifle. Haven't shot it in 30 years.
Ray Henning's HoT Music... a more mystical place may not exist for the Austin music lover. Consider this. Ray has been central to the Austin music scene since well before anyone knew there was one. I know a member of an Austin 50's doo-wop group (The Slades, compadres of Ray Campi) that remembers Ray running HoT music even back then. Ray gave the starving, strugging, Stevie Vaughn a guitar from the "used" bin that SRV went on to make his career upon. HoT music directly supports road shows and all Austin music festivals with equipment rentals, loaners, whatever. Ray help define Austin as a Guitar Town well before the the marketing guys woke up to it.
Musicians have come and gone in this town but one of the men behind the scenes, who made the music possible more than most, was always Ray Henning.
Update: Well, the end is here. As reported by the Statesman, Lamar Plaza is being gentrified. Here's the final tombstone for a great Austin tradition.
It is said that HoT Music will keep going in their Temple store... I hope so.
Note: Ray doesn't seem to have a website and a lot of folks end up here after searching for him. Here is his information from the phone book:
Heart Of Texas Music
1002 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri 9:30am-6:30pm, Sat 9:30am-6pm
Payment Methods: AMEX, DISCOVER, MASTER CARD and VISA
Ray Henning & Family - A Texas Tradition Since 1961
Inner Sanctum went through a couple or three metamorphoses, always tracking what was cool in Austin. Progressive Country to Punk. Inner Sanctum had it all when you wanted it. They also provided an essential service to the local bands of the day by being about the ONLY retail outlet for those rare events known as recordings by Austin bands.