Heartworks Co./Paper Bear, described by its owner as a “world famous, Texas-sized gift shop” has been a staple of the downtown San Marcos area since 1978.
Owner Carol Powers first opened the store to sell handmade items from regional artists and craftsmen as well as antiques. At the time, Powers said, San Marcos was a small community with limited retail options.
“We’d go and just look for anything unusual, too, that nobody else was selling,” Powers said. “[In the] ’80s and ’90s, there wasn’t hardly anything but Hallmark stores around here.”
So, as customers came to the store looking for certain items, Powers went out and found them—effectively allowing the customers to have a hand in shaping the eclectic inventory the store still offers today.
“People—we used to laugh—we would hear it all the time, people would walk in the store, and they’d go, ‘What kind of a store is this?’”
Today, Heartworks Co./Paper Bear sells a hand-picked selection of toys, art, clothing, stationary, Texas and San Marcos souvenirs, collectibles, novelty items and more. The store also offers handmade jewelry made by a family in Guatemala.
“I know the store really supports a lot of families,” she said, adding that she often buys items to sell from her friend who supplies her with local market items from Peru. “We get stuff from him, and he’s from Peru, but he lives outside of San Antonio. And he’ll go over there several times a year and just buy stuff up to help support the people, and then we buy things from him.”
Powers said the uniqueness of the store seems to be what has given it longevity—although she never expected it—as locals and visitors alike come to Heartworks Co./Paper Bear after hearing about its unique selection by word of mouth.
“The whole thing about the store is to hopefully make people happy,” she said. “That’s what our emphasis is always on.”
Heartworks Co./Paper Bear
218 N. LBJ Drive, San Marcos
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., closed Sun.