Welcome, welcome to the newly converted official mayor?s residence of Houston, the Save You Money! Mansion. As you know, it was Mayor Lee Brown who first suggested that we needed an official mayor?s residence for city entertaining since Houston was totally without any hotel ballrooms or city buildings, not to mention football stadiums, baseball parks or basketball arenas with luxury lounges. And our three restaurants were usually full.
With the huge surplus in the city?s coffers, the public overwhelmingly supported this project. The job was turned over to the lowest bidder, the City Public Works Department, which explains the cracked slab, peeling paint and potholes in the hallway. Now, if you?ll come this way ? watch your step, you might twist an ankle ? this is the kitchen where they cook the books. Notice the kitchen cabinet, made up entirely of lobbyists and contractors. Next, we have the Lee Brown Cloakroom where he hangs his coat while passing through town.
Here is the Houston Sports Authority Game Room. As you might know, the Authority was originally established to build our three new sports venues, but its members managed to perpetuate and expand their positions and, of course, their budget, so that today they run our parks, libraries, most topless bars and this, the Game Room. You don?t often see an indoor polo field, do you?
A question? Well, no, the mansion was not quite built on schedule, but we stuck to the original blueprints, which explains the stockade and watchtower. If you?ll come with me, behind this velvet rope is the Ben Reyes Law Library. It honors all those city officials who got in trouble with the law. Most are serving their sentences concurrently, which gives a whole new meaning to ?term limits.? That reminds me. The Save You Money! Mansion has a regular pest control check. It?s run by a little-known company, the J. Edgar Hoover Pests R Us. They don?t take bugs out, they put them in.
No, ma?m, we do not have glass ceilings, but our overhead is fantastic.
One floor below, we have the T.S. Allison Memorial Swimming Pool, formerly the wine cellar. Now, let?s go upstairs. Again, watch your step. The Public Works people say the banister will be installed any month now. Incidentally, some of you are no doubt wondering about the name of this residence. It beat out Your Remarkable Mansion by 10 grand. We also get a yearly payment for the Golden Arches Garage.
Here we go. Look to your left. You?ve heard of the Lincoln Bedroom? This is the Enron Restroom because, due to Enron, all of Houston took a bath. You will notice that there are a lot of closets in the house. That?s where we keep the skeletons.
Uh, yes, sir, the price of this mansion is still to be determined. There seems to have been some slight cost overruns but relatively minor when compared to, say, the annual budget of the Defense Department. Because of unforeseen expenses such as nails and paint, there had to be some cost cutting in city services. You may have noticed the coin-operated fire hydrants around town, and studies show most people do not mind driving themselves to the hospital if the city furnishes the ambulance. However, we?ve been less than successful with our Adopt-A-Cellblock program. In any event, we should have a general idea of the costs within a few years or after the present administration leaves office, whichever comes first. That is according to our auditors, Arthur Andersen.
Come back downstairs, and let?s go out on the front porch. That?s it, walk right through the doorway while the butler holds it open. Thank you, Orlando. There is the statue of Sam Houston, the statue of Jesse Jones and, most importantly, the ?statue? of limitations. Some of you may be curious as to why the front driveway is dug up. We dug it up so that we could re-pave it then dig it up again. Currently, we are ahead of schedule. Well, I think that about does it with the tour of the mayor?s mansion. And people wondered what we would do with the Astrodome. ih
In Your Face
by Roger Gray
We’d Pay $100 Million to Keep Kathie Lee From Having Anymore “In-wedlock” Births
Dr. Wade Horn, who has probably the most thankless job in a Republican administration, overseeing welfare programs, has an idea. If we can’t do nothin’ about birthin’ these babies out of wedlock, let’s, by gosh, make it legal. Dr. Horn, who serves as Tommy Thompson’s brain at Health and Human Services, wants to spend $100 million to educate and nudge single parents toward marriage. It’s a noble goal, and we wish him well. Then maybe these kids won’t get in trouble by, oh, I don’t know, underage drinking or forging prescriptions.
“Hank, It’s Bill Clinton on the Phone! Do You Have Barbara Boxer’s Number?”
Our San Antonio boy toy, Henry Cisneros, is shocked – shocked – to learn he and his “nonpartisan” voter registration drive are being accused of partisanship. Texas Republican Chairwoman Susan Weddington (whom Henry secretly suspects is a boiling cauldron of passion beneath that placid veneer) says his support of Democrats like Ron Kirk (former mayor of Dallas who’s running for the Phil Gramm memorial Enron seat in the Senate) calls his supposedly nonsectarian “Every Texan Foundation” into question. Henry was so stunned at this accusation, he nearly dropped the blonde he was holding as he replied that he could remain partisan and non-partisan at the same time. Sort of like remaining married and ?
We Just Needed to Reiterate
As I write this, I just read Bill Coulter’s “analysis” of the congressional tax and stimulus package arguments in the Houston Chronicle, and I just have to say once again, WHO HIRED THIS MORON? Thanks, I feel better.
Well, Mr. President, If Osama Hijacks a Boat, You’ll be Darn Glad We Bought Those Extra Attack Subs
Speaking of money and taxes, are there two budget planners less equipped to plan for the future than George W. Bush and Lee P. Brown – The Prez wants F-22s to fight terrorists and tax cuts for Enron, and Lee P. can’t seem to figure out how to pay the folks who fight fires, catch bad guys and pick up garbage. Maybe if we didn?t spend the nest egg on Cold War weaponry or sports stadiums, these two Arthur Andersen-quality number crunchers could find the needed lucre to fill potholes and help my mother with her prescriptions.
And Rick, When the Air is Clean, Every Day is a Good Hair Day
Kudos to Governor Rick – should I use mousse or spray- Perry. His plan for transportation corridors throughout Texas utilizing highways, rail lines and rights-of-way for pipelines is visionary. Too bad those who harp against rail in Houston, anti-pollution efforts or Amtrak don’t have the creativity the good Lord gave small hand tools. Anyone who thinks our highways or airlines truly pay for themselves, as they want Amtrak to do, is uninformed or simply lying. Anyone who can’t find the wherewithal to drive 55, pay a few bucks more for tailpipe tests and accept truly minimal intrusions on our profligate lifestyles is simply lazy, selfish or worse. And anyone who thinks the Bush pollution plan does anything is gullible or thinks the former guv’s “voluntary” industrial cleanup actually worked here in Texas. Perry’s plan has all the farsightedness his colleagues and predecessor lack.
Keep Hope Alive! I?ll be on Channel 2 at Five!
I was disheartened when I watched the news stories showing the employees of our own homegrown business Chernobyl on the streets, cleaning out their desks, talking about their empty 401(k)s, which are now 101(k)s. Then I saw that Jesse Jackson was on his way to lead a rally on their behalf. At that, my spirits sank. Haven’t these folks suffered enough?
A Night Out With The Rachels
by Evelyn Vasquez
One of my friends describes the lead singer as “cute in a weird kind of way,” and I have to say, she’s right on target. He would be just an ordinary guy if he weren’t the lead singer of The Rachels, a hot new band appearing around Houston. There is definitely something sexy about a guy in blue jeans with a microphone and a guitar.
The Rachels can be found generating their own brand of excitement from basement bars to large clubs across Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties – anywhere people gather to enjoy a good show. They play an interesting combination of cover tunes, rock classics and original numbers that blend nicely into a whole presentation. Each band member brings something different to the table; each offers his own individual talents, the sum of which outweighs its parts.
Expect something different every time you see this band perform. Depending on the atmosphere, The Rachels can put on a really mellow show or a big, wild party. If you’re in the mood for mellow, see them at Rookies in The Woodlands. But if you’re in the mood for wild, head out to Pete’s Place off F.M. 1960 on a Thursday night.
The band consists of Steve Garcia, 27, lead vocalist and guitar; Brian Davis, 27, drummer and winner of The Houston Press’ “Best Drummer” for two years running; Jason Davis, 22, bass guitar; and David Cummings, 26, rhythm and lead guitar. They are all very down-to-earth guys.
H Texas met up with them at FountainHead, a bar on F.M. 1960 where they play a regular gig every Sunday night. We caught them during setup a few hours before show time.
How would you describe yourselves as a group? Do you see yourselves as a “cover band?”
Steve: No way!
Brian: We’re doing the covers (other people’s music) because that’s what we have to do to get the originals out there.
Jason: You can technically consider this our job because it’s what we all do for income.
Brian: Yeah. The only way to make money in Houston is doing covers, and we are fortunate enough to be able to split originals and covers, putting originals into it (the show) to make it work.
So, basically, you’re doing what you love and trying to make a living?
What advice would you give to a band trying to break in?
Jason: You have to compromise your artistic creativity in order to make it anywhere, unless you are lucky.
What is your least favorite part of being in a band?
Brian: Playing as much as we do and never having time to do anything outside of this (and) missing all the good shows that come to town because we’re playing. Not being able to spend time with your significant other because you have a show.
Steve: Even trying to keep a significant other because we have shows to do.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
Brian: Keeping fresh and new, having to play so much and having to maintain the same attitude night after night, because there are some shows that it’s kind of hard to get up for because maybe the crowd’s just not into it, but you kind of still have to do it anyway.
OK, let’s have some fun. What is the most outrageous thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Jason: On multiple occasions there has been a woman, whose name I don’t know. She’s an older woman, and she always wears a dress and always comes up and goes “Hey!” and when I look she lifts up her dress and takes a picture of me.
Steve: Oh yeah, that’s a Rachel’s trademark.
What are your views on drugs?
Jason: I think we have been labeled as a party band when we really aren’t. At the end of the night we all go home, more so than anyone else.
Do you write your songs so other people will like them or do you write them because it’s how you feel? Like your song “I Get High?”
Steve: I’ve written them on both terms. I’ve smoked pot twice in my life. When I wrote that song, I had never even tried it. Being in a band, I guess it was always available. Everyone was always smoking it around me. That’s when I said ‘Man, if I wrote a song about it’
Brian: Commenting on drugs, it’s like there is really no set answer because some people can handle it and some people can’t. I know people who do it for a recreational purpose and have done it for years and years and have never had a problem with it. I think that if people want to do it and they can handle it and still function, and they don?t hurt anybody doing it, then ‘whatever,’ it’s your life. But we are not supporting drug use.
How were you influenced musically?
Steve: I think my greatest influence was my uncle. I didn’t even care about music until seventh grade. I would go to my grandmother’s house and see my uncle playing and singing, and I thought “that’s incredible,” to see someone do something that you hear on the radio. So I would ask him, and he would show me little things on the guitar. It was then that I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Jason: Brian and I were both inspired to play by Elvis impersonators. True story.
Brian: My biggest thing was, when I was younger I wanted a drum set and a motorcycle, and, well, put it this way, I never quite got the motorcycle, but eventually my dad got me that drum set – cause I had always been beating on boxes and doing dumb (things) like that. I really wanted the motorcycle, but I got the drum set, and years later, here I am.
David: I heard “Sweet Child of Mine” on the radio – honestly. I got a guitar magazine, and I opened it up and saw a picture of Slash. That’s when I knew I wanted to do what he did.
Whether it’s watching a show or talking to them in person, getting to know The Rachels was definitely a good experience. We recommend you check out this band, and be sure to have them autograph their CD. You might be sorry later if you don’t.
To find out where The Rachels are playing near you, log on to their Web site at www.rachelslive.com.
What Improvements Would You Like to See in Houston’s Nightlife?
With such a tantalizing array of restaurants and bars to choose from, Houston is the ultimate playground for pretty young things and hard-core “scenesters” to get their fix of nightlife. Being in the public relations business, I do try to get out once in a while to see my clients, friends and peers. And while going out is supposed to be a hoot, lately I have noticed more and more people expressing frustration rather than enthusiasm when it comes to their fave establishments. Take bars, for example. I don’t think I’m alone in suggesting that the underage carding policies could use a little tightening up. Truly, there is nothing more irking than to come to a supposedly swanky spot only to find it swarming with overzealous, underage patrons. And then there?s the staff. First of all, if patrons are courteous and pleasant, I see absolutely no reason for the door staff, bartenders or security to carry themselves with such attitude. There?s also the infamous selection process. Lastly, there is nothing more frustrating than to waste half an hour at the bar, fighting for some attention just to order a drink. I would assume that the owners and managers, with their consummate experience, know which nights are busiest in order to supply adequate staffing. With the condition of our downtown streets these days and all of the construction, it is even more imperative for these establishments to pay closer attention to the way they conduct business and treat their customers. So, restaurant and club/bar owners out there, read on and take note, because I am not alone. Here’s the inside dope from Houston’s happening crowd.
I’d like to see more people coming to enjoy our town after the business day is over. It drives me crazy to talk to people who have not stayed up past 10 p.m. in their recent memory and then wonder why they are bored with their lives. I love going to the restaurants and nightspots downtown, midtown and in the Galleria area. You’ll find me munching at Aldos, Aries, Farragos and El Tiempo. To encourage more people to get out, it would help for construction crews to engage in less road rage and recognize that having a front end loader operating 5 feet from the entrance of a nightclub tends to affect the atmosphere and our evenings. It also wouldn’t hurt for one of our stations to have a show dedicated to the night scene to better promote all of our options.
Rob Todd, attorney, Waldon, Schneider & Todd, P.C.
I would like to see more people appreciate what downtown Houston nightlife offers. The downtown area alone has some of the best DJs in the country, great bands, unique restaurants from Pan-Asian to Latin, jazz clubs, amazing dance clubs, plus the theater district. I wish more people could enjoy downtown Houston nightlife.
Jeffrey Yarbrough, proprietor of Liberty Noodles/Ricebar and president of Texas Restaurant Association
I would like to see more casual dinner and dance clubs and less attitude and velvet ropes.
John Conroy, owner, varsityproductions.com
Less is more. People want comfortable spaces to meet and have fun in, where conversations can be heard, not shouted over thumping dance music. The dress should be like our lives, cool but casual. How many establishments have to close before the owners realize long lines, surly door people, expensive cover charges and pricey drinks may make their club seem exclusive and fashionable, but as soon as the next “must-see” spot opens, they are left with no core group to keep their place open?
Johnny Hooks, general and public relations manager, Spa 1107
We need more support from the media by giving downtown nightlife more positive exposure instead of negative. There should be more streetlights downtown, transportation solutions around construction areas, tax relief for businesses downtown, city-paid musicians to play on street corners to create a more festive environment, improved parking, friendlier cops and friendlier staff at clubs who “spoil their customers.”
Shein Hashemi, marketing director for Slainte Irish Pub/Bronx Bar/Live
150 miles to Austin
BP MS150 makes the dash to Austin
by Jake Erickson
What motivates 9,000 people to pedal from Houston to Austin? Could it be greed, lust, power or money? Well, not exactly. It has to do with the generosity of the human spirit and the attitude of never giving up in the face of adversity or enormous odds. Through the efforts of these people – corporate vice presidents, small-business owners, entrepreneurs, housewives, teen-agers and senior citizens – the BP MS 150 bike ride from Houston to Austin has become the largest sporting event of its kind in the nation and has raised, since its inception in 1985, a phenomenal $20 million to battle the devastating effects of multiple sclerosis.
Ask anyone in Houston about the “bike” (as it is affectionately known) and you’ll get as many stories as riders who participate. Almost everyone has a friend, co-worker or relative who rides. It’s a fraternity of cyclists who share a willingness to endure two days of backbreaking hills, headwinds and spring showers. The riders come from 35 states and four countries (United States, Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). Unlike the marathon that passes though Houston’s inner city and surrounding neighborhoods, the BP MS 150 takes off from west Houston and disappears from sight. What we don’t see is the enormous “machine” that drives this tour and the thousands of volunteers who man the many break points and maintain the safety and comfort of riders along the way.
The MS 150 has experienced stellar growth in recent years, from 3,000 in 1998 to more than 9,000 in 2001, creating new logistic challenges for the “bike team.” Added support crews and phenomenal cooperation from city and state police and sheriff departments have been essential in providing a safe, well-orchestrated event. With rider numbers already up 40 percent for 2002, the improvement in support and communications will once again prove to be the linchpin in the success of this ride.
The BP MS 150 snakes across miles of Texas highway and features an overnight stay in La Grange that doubles the local population to 18,000. It is indeed a spectacle to see as friends and well-wishers line the road dotted with bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes and field poppies to cheer on the riders from Industry to Bastrop and then into the state capital. The cyclists alone are an impressive sight adorned in day-glow bike jerseys enhanced by grins as big as the Texas sky. Add to that the more than 3,000 volunteers who man SAG (support and gear) vehicles, break points and medical tents, and the result is a virtual city on wheels.
From the starting point in Houston on Saturday to the finish in Austin on Sunday, the BP MS 150 sprawls across seven counties and travels 175 miles of roadway. Participants range in age from 6 to 82 and ride to support their friends and loved ones who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Others participate as a fun way to spend the weekend or as members of corporate-sponsored teams, while many take part on an individual basis. There are no strangers among the ranks of riders, and everyone from first-time riders to BP MS 150 veterans quickly finds friends with whom to ride. While the BP MS 150 is not a race, the competition comes in various shapes and forms, including from top fundraisers jousting for No. 1 status. The competition for top jersey also is a fierce one, with some teams involving professional designers to create the most original and eye-catching outerwear.
Preparing for the ride is not unlike training for a marathon. It takes serious physical conditioning. Yet, every year there are a number of participants who dust off their bikes, and away they go. For others, local bike shops and athletic clubs offer training rides and tips. Getting in shape involves at least 12 weeks of training. The MS Society hosts training rides beginning in January and offers explicit tips for beginners on its Web site. While your body does not get the pounding associated with running 26 miles, riding for 175 miles makes other parts of your body just as sore. Bumped and scraped knees and sunburn account for the majority of the maladies for riders, representing an inconvenience for some and a badge of honor for others.
After spending the first day passing through bucolic Bellville and New Ulm, riders arrive at the day’s conclusion, where they spend the night at the Fayette County Fairgrounds in La Grange. It’s there that Texas meets Woodstock, and the party lasts well into the night. Bands play continually, and riders look forward to a hot meal and a cold beer. The 50-acre fairground is packed with individual and corporate tents, and just about anything goes. As cyclists enter the fairgrounds, their bikes are sent to the bike corral for the evening, leaving riders free to roam the grounds and meet up with friends and family. It’s at the overnight that stories are swapped around fire pits and barbecue grills to catch up on the day’s news. It’s also here that the competition to outdo fellow teams really heats up. Many teams such as BP, Anadarko, Halliburton, Dow, ExxonMobil, Team Sun & Ski and Continental Airlines have upwards of 200 riders. Title sponsor British Petroleum is the nations’ largest MS 150 team with 500 riders, raising $500,000 in 2001. In La Grange, team members relax in large tents, complete with masseurs, catered meals and, in the case of Team Schlumberger, a hot tub. The next morning before saddling up again, riders are treated to a pancake breakfast catered by the local Knights of Columbus members. In 2001, more than 12,000 pancakes were flipped.
The second day really tests the mettle of the riders. The momentum that propels them from the starting line has been replaced with determination to finish the grueling event. Grinding down the gears as they head into the most difficult portion of the ride, Bastrop and Buscher State Park, is what sets the tone for this leg. For miles, riders are challenged by the steep hills and winding roads that crisscross the parks. Emerging on the other side, riders are met by whoops of joy and encouragement from bystanders who line the park exit. From this point and after a quick lunch in Bastrop, rider’s head out for the last break points that separate them from the finish line. Sore muscles, sunburned noses and cramped toes are almost forgotten as riders surge toward the end of the trail.
At this juncture, the event becomes bittersweet, for it’s at the finish that family and friends await the riders. It is often here that riders embrace the reality that brave men and women suffer the unpredictability of MS every day of their lives. These individuals – the sufferers of MS – are the true champions of the MS 150. The strength they show in the face of this disease is what propels riders year after year. When you see the admiration and respect that both riders and MS patients extend to each other, that’s when you know this is why they ride.
Setting the Trend
Houstonian, fashion designer Cesar Galindo
by Todd Ramos
A native Houstonian from Milby High School, Cesar Galindo is your all-around boy-next-door type whose star is getting brighter and brighter. Galindo, an internationally known fashion designer, says he gets his inspiration and creativity from his mother because he grew up watching her create her own clothing. Then, when his sister decided to get married and asked him to design her dress, the stitching of a fashion designer emerged. Galindo?s Latin roots play a big part in his designs, drawing from the flavor, color and spice of his ethnicity.
We first noticed Galindo in the early 1980s and were blown away by his designs. He had a fashion show at Rich’s and brought the house down. His designs were so out there, so very futuristic, it was like the “Jetson’s” look gone sexy. His looks were sexy, unique and sophisticated all in one. Galindo didn’t go to school for designing but had something better, his own personal professor – mom. It was here in Houston that he was encouraged to go to New York. When diva Grace Jones came to town, she urged Galindo to leave designing at the Houston Grand Opera and find his way in the Great White Way. He couldn’t have made it to New York without the support of good friends like Page Parkes-Eveleth, Rachel Duran, Dee Alvarado from Dream Merchant, the Visible Changes family, his family, and, of course, his own drive and inner faith. Once he hit New York, his first job was with TSE Cashmere. Brian Nelson, Steve Travolta, Camelo Pomodero, Janet Racy and Dolce & Gabanna were among the many individuals that were instrumental in Galindo’s career.
Galindo’s fashion made it big with the cover of Elle magazine, July 1994, on supermodel Karen Mulder. Once America and the rest of the world caught a glimpse of his designs, they wanted more. Galindo’s first trunk show was with Martha’s International on Park Avenue. Next, he was featured at the New York City retail institution Henri Bendel. Since then, he has created a media frenzy and been mentioned or featured in or on The New York Times, CNN, CNN Español, “Hard Copy,” “Inside Edition,” “E! Entertainment,” FOX, CBS, NBC, Univision and Telemundo, just to name a few. Galindo’s designs have been carried by top retailers from Saks Fifth Avenue to Bloomingdales to Henri Bendel and are currently at Patricia Field in New York and the Hotel Venus in SoHo – not bad for a boy of the South. This Houstonian has made quite a name for himself since his debut eight years ago.
Galindo travels back to his roots many times throughout the year, usually unveiling his line with a fashion show as a fundraiser for organizations assisting individuals with HIV/AIDS. We had a blast getting to know this truly talented Houstonian.
Who inspired you?
My mother, sister, Sophia Loren, Chanel, YSL and Geoffrey Beene.
What sets you apart from the rest of the fashion designers?
My flavor for color that I draw from my Latin roots.
What is the next hottest thing you have designed?
This season, you’ll see a very arty look with a strong point of tailoring and crisp body lines that are very clean-cut. My fabric will be linen and silks (taffeta, chiffon and lots of textures), and my cuts will be contoured to the body. My patterns will be individually hand-painted.
Who are some of the big names you have worked with?
Currently, I am under contract with Dolce & Gabanna, Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan’s world tour with Prince, Madonna and Lauren Valez from HBO’s “OZ.”
What is next for you?
I’ll be working on my spring 2003 line, and I’m a head designer for a New York-based design firm.
Where do you get your ideas?
From music, art, architecture and cultures. My eyes pick up everything.
What advice would you give someone wanting to be a designer?
Study the business and techniques, then create your own techniques, images and style.
Have you found it difficult being a minority designer?
No, actually it has been an advantage. I have milked it for everything it is worth.
What keeps you in touch with your Latin roots?
We see that you are continuously raising money for AIDS charities. Why is that?
It is the one disease that has affected my life the most. If there is something I can do, I want to do it.
What do you do on your days off?
I enjoy watching classic movies like “Mahogany,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Giant.”
Recently, you were featured in Evin Thayer’s “Millennium Makers” book of Houstonians that benefited the arts. Tell us about that.
I was very proud. Not only was I the youngest male in the book, but also I represented my age bracket and my culture. All sales of the book benefit Houston-area high school students who plan to continue their studies in any arts area at a Houston institute of high learning. That is very important to me.
When you think of Houston, what comes to mind?
Security, love, home and family.
So lets talk about your next hot project.
On Thursday nights, I will transform the Boaka Bar downtown into a night of fashionable theatrics, Boaka A La Mode. There will be a fashion event every Thursday night, starting with superstar “Sex and the City” stylist Rebecca Weinberg. She will present the fashion archives from HBO’s “Sex and the City,” which includes designers like Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabanna, Gucci, Chanel and Prada.
Shop ’til you drop
by Phaedra Friend
I have to admit that I have never been my mother’s daughter when it comes to shopping. Childhood memories of traveling to a large city on certain weekends of the year to “power shop” for hours on end without a definite goal – other than to spend money on those can’t-leave-behind deals that you have to lose 10 pounds to wear – have severely tainted my thoughts on shopping. As an adult, I usually find the physical act of shopping intimidating and exhaustive. Because of this and the fact that I simply didn’t know where to shop, I have eluded Houston’s shopping scene – until now.
What I did not know is that shopping can be a pleasant and efficient experience if you just know where to go and what you are doing there. As a non-shopper, I had to formulate a plan. Aimless wandering from store to store would not only be a reenactment of my childhood but would also take the rest of my life. Houston has a vast and varied shopping experience to offer, and it would take a lifetime to fully appreciate all of Houston’s amazing stores.
I chose to visit the shopping areas of the Heights, Rice Village, the Westheimer curve between Montrose and Shepherd and the Galleria. My mission was to go to these specific Houston shopping venues, visit and absorb as many stores as possible and find four original items – all within a three-hour period. I was shopping for a housewarming present, something for my father on his 60th birthday, a present for a young child and something for myself.
So, with my footsteps weighted only by the things that I bought rather than fear and loathing, I shopped and shopped and shopped. To my surprise, my experience with shopping in Houston was refreshingly effective, non-threatening and fun.
The Heights is a cozy little area just north of I-10 and inside the Loop. This shopping area is definitely an antique-er’s paradise with a small-town feel. Shopping in the Heights can be hit or miss, but you can hit the jackpot with pricing, collectibles, antiques and trendy little gifts that are really unique. Every nook houses an antique store, and everywhere you turn there is something that you have to take home. Due to my self-imposed time restraint, I spent most of my time on 19th Street, but I know that there are little treasures to be found throughout the Heights.
Jubilee, 321 A 19th St.; (713) 869-5885
This store has it all! Not only are there select antiques, the shabby-chic fad is manifest throughout the store. Walk in, and you are surrounded by all kinds of swank jewelry, trendy clothing for men and women and an amazing second floor that features decadent furniture and plush home décor. I definitely could have filled my home with goodies from Jubilee but restrained myself and bought only a pair of leopard-print cat-eyed sunglasses with a great red tint. M H
Fashion has not skipped this store filled with funky clothing, jewelry and accessories, with fashions geared toward a younger, or at least young at heart, clientele. I could have worn anything straight out of the store to one of my favorite nighttime hangouts and felt like a price-savvy princess. One of my favorite items was a cuddly pair of pajamas with monkeys on them. M
La Maison, 321 W. 19th St.
This store has a unique blend of gifts, furniture, clothing and art. Resale clothing is hot right now, and it fills one corner of their second floor while the rest of it is sprinkled with functional artistic furniture and artwork. More gifts are located on the first floor where I found a great hand-painted hula girl ornament to go along with my Hawaiian theme. M H F
Alabama Furniture & Accessories
2200 Yale St.; (713) 862-3035
This massive store features new, consignment, resale and estate furnishings, art and accessories. A shopper could get lost in the possibilities here. From lamps to beds to tables and collectibles, that perfect find is waiting for you here and at the right price. Alabama Furniture’s inventory is made even more valuable by its honest prices. M H F
Yubo’s Ethnic & Folk Art Gallery
1012 Yale St.; (713) 862-3239
I felt like I was walking into old Mexico as I entered this treasure chest. Yubo’s embraces our neighbor country with its Mexican and Southwestern art, home décor and custom furniture. Religious themes run through this store and your house after you leave. M H F
Rice Village snuggles up next to the Texas Medical Center and Rice University, off of Kirby and a stone’s throw from U.S. 59 inside the Loop. This outdoor mall is filled with eateries, bars and, most importantly, great Houston shops. All your favorite corporate and franchised stores are here, from the Gap to Victoria’s Secret to Pier One. But I tried to stick to the real charm of Rice Village, the smaller, unique-to-Houston-only shops. Extensive amounts of time can be spent in Rice Village, but I took in as much as I could with my time limit and enjoyed every second of it.
British Isle, 2366 Rice Blvd.
Think English, and you will be on the same train of thought as British Isle. Everything they sell here has some connection to the Redcoats, from an extensive British tea and jam collection to Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter. Authentically English dishes and memorabilia fill the store, but my favorite had to be the panties (or knickers, as they say across the pond) made in the image of the Union Jack. M H F C
Chartreuse Cat, 2414 Rice Blvd.
This kitty can tackle any gift! Whether you bring in your own gift to be specially wrapped or you let them throw something gorgeous together for you, the Chartreuse Cat is capable of putting together a gift for every occasion and making it look beautiful. They can beautify baby presents, party favors, sales promotions and much more. M H F C
Circa Now Gallery, 2552 Amherst St.
This eclectic store is full of rare and special art, dishes, glassware, stationery and jewelry. I couldn’t decide between its precious puppy gifts and its martini glasses, so I bought a crazy wine stopper and a hula girl clock that shakes her hips with every second. Some inventory changes seasonally, but the perfect gift can always be found here. M H F
Screen Porch Art, 2422 Rice Blvd.
Screen Porch Art offers American folk art and fine crafts ranging from beautiful dolls and jewelry to dishes and hand-painted furniture. Seasonal gifts can be found here, and every room leads you to a new avenue of American beauty and culture. M H F C
Wellhausen’s, 2425 Rice Blvd.
This shop not only boasts some great gifts, it also custom frames them. Fine art prints decorate the walls of this gift shop, and beautiful glass art and photo frames lie around every bend. Prints can be purchased here, or outside art can be brought into the shop. Either way, the frame and art will be beautiful at Wellhausen?s. M H F C
Urban Outfitters, 2501 University
This trendy store is known for it?s 70s- and 80s-style apparel, but it also has books, home décor and accessories. Urban Outfitters features clothes and more that the 20 to 30 somethings wore while growing up with puma shirts and Dr. Seuss books. It’s like going through your old closet without having to worry about the grass stain you got at recess last week. M H C
The Westheimer Curve
This shopping area is between Montrose and Shepherd on Westheimer, and it’s full of antiques, resale and special fashions. While it tends to boast the off-the-beaten-path retail store, the Westheimer curve is uniquely Houston, an experience in itself and all about resale.
Buffalo Exchange, 1614 Westheimer
At Buffalo Exchange you can buy, sell, trade and donate. This utterly unique resale shop has fashions from every era at an affordable price. Merchandise is constantly changing with the amount of selling and trading that goes on here, making shopping at this store a surprise every time. After you make your must-have purchase, you can opt not to receive a bag and donate a five-cent token to a local Houston charity. M
Leopard Lounge, 1637 Westheimer
Another great resale shop, this new store is a clothing exchange with a bite. The furniture and carpet are covered in leopard print, making it feel like an adventure to mingle among racks of vintage and urban clothing. Be sure to find Houston?s downtown club scene dressed in Leopard Lounge?s goods. M
Old Blue House Antiques
Old Blue House Antiques is expansive, as are its antiques. It must have taken a lifetime to collect all the antiques that this shop has accumulated, and it would take about that long to appreciate them all. Old Blue House Antiques houses unbelievable amounts of antique furniture, collectibles and housewares. M H F
Antique Warehaus/Trash and Treasure Since 1947, 1714 Westheimer
(713) 522- 6858
Character comes with age, and Antique Warehaus definitely falls under that category. There are little life quips posted throughout the store like, “Visualize getting off the phone.” As I listened to other shoppers ask about merchandise, I was amazed that the salesperson had a story or explanation to go along with many of the pieces. Not only is this store full of remarkable antiques, you can learn the history behind them. M H F
The Emporium, 1800 Westheimer
The Emporium claims the title of “Houston’s largest resource for residential and commercial architectural antiques.” This is an antique and hardware store that includes massive doors and fireplace mantels and a vast assortment of garden fountains and gates. I fell in love with an antique golf bag and clubs for my father. The Emporium also does refinishing and restoration. M H F
Dealers Direct Imports
1735 Westheimer; (713) 528-3974
Dealers Direct Imports specializes in Indonesian and Mexican arts and furniture. Wrought-iron furniture and granite and limestone tabletops abound in this store. Every nook and cranny is filled with some special piece, whether it is a bed or the barstools I almost took home for myself. M H, F
This area is located just outside the 610 Loop on Westheimer. The popularity of the mall here has exploded to define the area. The Galleria is an immense shopping area that not only describes the mall building, but also the shops surrounding it. The Galleria area is the king of shopping areas for many and includes such stores as Emporio Armani and Gianni Versace. I had trouble finding Houston-owned shops during my time there but did the best I could to find some stores that stand out.
J. Tiras Classic Handbags, Inc.
5000 Westheimer; (713) 840-1998
J. Tiras keeps up with the trends while remembering the classics in handbags. One of the many purse designers they carry is Maya, which are handmade resin purses with a strap that can be converted into a belt. This handbag haven also features such designers as Angela Frascone, Francisco Biasa and Monsac. M
Caruggi’s, 5000 Westheimer
Caruggi’s carries women’s apparel that is classic with an edgy twist. One of the many designers that this beautiful store carries is Bernard Zins, who has a line of tropical weight wool that Houstonians can wear. The clothing that Caruggi’s carries is directed specially toward the Houston woman. M
Piccolini, 5000 Westheimer
As you walk through the beautiful ironwork door of Piccolini, you are transported into a fairyland full of precious children’s clothing. I never realized that children could look so in fashion, but if you get clothes at Piccolini – anything from the tiny red mules to the feathered blouse – you’ll know the child will be in style. C
Soho, 5015 Westheimer
Despite the alarm going off as I walked into the shop, I could see that Soho is full of the latest trends for Houston’s young generation. They carry all the hip lines from Bhatti to Miss Sixty and Phat Farm. The salesperson hinted toward one of their designers being worn by Britney Spears. M
Build A Bear Workshop
Probably the sweetest store I?ve ever experienced, Build a Bear Workshop is a child’s paradise. This store custom builds teddy bears from the fur to the name to the stuffing and heart. A bear that is built here is made with love, and it goes home in its own condo to your home to be loved. M C
Field of Dreams
If you are into sports, this is the place for you. Field of Dreams specializes in all kinds of sports memorabilia – signed basketballs and baseball cards fill this store. Field of Dreams will probably be able to find anything you ask for, signature or sports related, even if it?s not located in the store the day you walk in. F C