Local store focuses on unique finds, holiday gift options, products from reused materials

By Kelli Weldon

Giving a new life to an old object is something shoppers can achieve at Wanderland, a locally owned store on William Cannon Drive.

The store does not sell used goods but instead offers myriad "upcycled" items ranging from wooden chairs made out of wine barrels to handbags made from computer keyboards and recycled innertubes, co-owner Kelly Rath said. Those eco-friendly options are mixed in with all-new finds such as quirky office supplies, decorative vases and novelty items on the shelves.

Wanderland scrutinizes when buying to select inventory that is unique, affordable, sensible and includes—as the store's tagline says—hip gifts, Kelly said.

Kelly and his wife, Christie, opened the store together after moving to Austin from Minneapolis in 2005.

"We used to frequent a couple of stores up there that we really liked, especially when it came to gift buying and the holiday season," he said, noting they could visit one store and find presents for everyone on their shopping list. "We didn't see anything down here that we thought was kind of the same."

After a few years of living in Austin the co-owners opened the first Wanderland store in November 2008 on North Lamar Boulevard. Kelly said the Raths hope to someday pass the business on to their three children.

In November 2012 the company expanded by opening its second store location in The Shops at Arbor Trails after being approached by the shopping center's owners about an available space, Kelly said. He said the Raths live in Southwest Austin, so the second location is closer to home.

Kelly said he has a background in building design and construction and he wanted to bring elements of that work—such as using green, reclaimed and recycled materials—to Wanderland.

Wanderland's offerings include greeting cards, handmade toys, stuffed animals, jewelry, picture frames, wall clocks, candles and notebooks.

"We seem to get lots of different people, and that makes me really happy when people of any age [and] gender come in and just are delighted with what we have to offer, like, 'Hey, I haven't seen that before,' or 'This is really cool.'"

Busy season

The shop typically increases its inventory significantly in November to ensure customers who are dedicated to supporting area businesses have a wide variety of gifts to choose from, co-owner Kelly Rath said.

"It seems that people are pretty intentional about shopping local," Rath said, noting the atmosphere of the store differs greatly from that of department stores and larger chains.

Wanderland sells wrapping paper and offers free gift bags with tissue paper as a gift-wrap option.

The store's busy season lasts through the end of December, Rath said.

Seeking sustainable options

When looking for products to stock, Wanderland co-owner Kelly Rath said the store seeks out companies that incorporate sustainable manufacturing practices as well as reclaimed materials.

  • Options include wind chimes, candles with myriad scents, floor mats made from former flip-flops, and all-natural The Naked Bee lotions and personal care products.

  • Wooden chairs made from reused wine barrels cost $170 each.

  • Wanderland aims to provide gift options for every shopper's price range, Rath said. The retailer's shelves feature a variety of Plan Toys products, which are wooden toys made of preservative-free rubberwood. Plan Toys pencils cost 25 cents, he said.

  • Wanderland stocks handmade coasters featuring images including peace signs, trees and a swimming motif ($42 for four).

  • Wanderland's Arbor Trails store offers handmade animal finger puppets ($5 each).

Wanderland, 4301 W. William Cannon Drive, Ste. 146, 512-899-2955, www.wanderlandshops.com, www.facebook.com/wanderland.austin

Hours: Mon.–Wed. 11 a.m.– 7 p.m., Thu.–Fri. 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Sat. 9:30 a.m.–8 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–6 p.m.