Gift shop serves as The Lone Star State's front door
Visitors from across the world travel to Texas, and no trip to the Lone Star State is complete without a memento to mark the visit.
At The Texas Store in Lakeline Mall, there is no shortage of popular state-themed merchandise, with plenty of items that feature the iconic longhorns, bluebonnets and the popular "Don't Mess With Texas" slogan. There's also the famous "Keep Austin Weird" T-shirts and Armadillo Droppings, a nutty, dark chocolate treat that people buy as a gag gift.
"I guess it's just catchy," said owner Bill Mathews. "People will give them as gifts, and they'll come back and end up wanting more."
Mathews has operated the gift shop since Lakeline Mall opened in 1995, but he's been in the business of promoting Texas since 1981 when he began working for a similarly themed store. More than half the customers who visit The Texas Store are tourists, Mathews said.
"I feel like we're stewards of Austin," he said. "We help people find a lot of what they're looking for."
Mathews, a south Austin native, often goes beyond selling merchandise to offer customers recommendations on must-see attractions, restaurants and entertainment while visiting the area. It is a part of the job he enjoys, and it's common for tourists to return to The Texas Store each time they're back in the area, Mathews said.
Austin locals often bring their guests to The Texas Store so they don't return home empty-handed, Mathews said. Much of the merchandise also makes ideal graduation and wedding gifts, he said. Austin-area businesses even come in seeking large orders for visiting clients, Mathews said.
Tourists help keep Mathews and his four-person staff busy throughout the summer vacation months. But that's okay, he said, as each full-time worker has more than 10 years of experience building displays for The Texas Store. And business naturally peaks during the Christmas season, Mathews said, requiring him to hire an additional six seasonal workers to accommodate the increased traffic.
With nearly 2,000 square feet, Mathews said he has room to carry a more diverse range of products often missing in other Texas-themed stores. Merchants also regularly contact Mathews to pitch their goods for The Texas Store.
The Texas Store, 11200 Lakeline Mall Drive, Ste. L5, Cedar Park, www.texasstore-austin.com, 250-0356