At age 28, native Houstonian Destiny Ellis’ stepdad asked her, “If you could do anything with your life, what would it be?” She told him she wanted to open her own shop.
With a background of working with small businesses, help from her family and inspiration from her time in South Africa, Ellis brought her dream to life in April 2021 with the opening of Asch Building.
“The whole mission of this whole place—the common denominator for the entire building—is that it’s ethical and sustainable, but it’s meant to be attainable,” Ellis said.
Ellis describes Asch Building as a “modern-day department store.” It has a coffee shop; a European-style market; a clothing store with pieces from South Africa; and a home goods shop. The South African influence can also be seen in the store’s zero-waste policy, and sustainable, eco-friendly products are common throughout the shop.
In the back of the building is a greenhouse; an apiary—a place where bees are kept; a ceramic studio run by Ellis’ younger sister called Four Circle Studio; and Afuera, a mainly nonalcoholic microbar that is used to highlight Indigenous cultures of colonized countries.
Vendors range from local to global, each upholding one of the store’s five standards: environmental consciousness, economic empowerment, diverse ownership, local production or charitable organization.
“We have a wide range,” Ellis said. “We did that on purpose to try to accommodate every type of person in every type of income bracket.”
Ellis also debuted her clothing line, 146, on March 25. The name commemorates the 146 lives lost in a clothing factory fire that took place in Manhattan’s Asch Building in 1911.
The items are “classic, timeless” pieces that have been modernized, such as jeans, shirtwaist blouses, World War II naval trousers and skirts, Ellis said. All pieces are designed and manufactured in house.
Ellis said the first year exceeded expectations, and she hopes the future includes global expansion.
“If you create something beautiful, you can get people to come,” Ellis said. “And then if you can make it attainable to the everyday person, you can sustain it.”
825 Studewood St., Houston
Hours: Mon.-Wed. 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Thu.-Fri. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
‘Zero-waste’ store Asch Building celebrates 1 year in the Heights
Atelier has items from businesses in South Africa that uphold the same values as the store. (Sofia Gonzalez/Community Impact Newspaper)