The holidays might mean buying loads of presents for loved ones, boozy mixers and twinkly lights, but we're fans of multitasking. This December, locals and visitors alike can enjoy Downtown's River Walk lights, get their holiday shopping done, take in a drink or two and support small businesses in one fell swoop.[Related: 20 Photos of the Galleries and Goods at OPEN: Downtown Holiday Pop-ups]
The return of last year's OPEN Downtown Pop-up Shops, a retail initiative of the City's Center City Development & Operations Department that helps raise awareness of commercial spaces in the area, brings a slew of new food-based businesses, art exhibits and opportunities for drinks and hobnobbing. The shops are open 12-9 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays through December 30 (which means parking is free during Downtown Tuesdays, and $5 after 5 p.m. on Saturdays at the St. Mary's Garage and Dolorosa parking lot). We hopped over one recent Tuesday to check out the offerings and take in a holiday drink or two.
The Schaum Building
231 E Houston
We made our way to our first stop of the evening for the first ever 1 Million Pints presentation, a new offshoot of Café Commerce's daytime program, 1 Million Cups. The brainchild of Café Commerce president Peter French, 1 Million Pints (usually provided by the folks at Alamo Beer) offers another venue for would-be business owners to gain real-time feedback from the community.
"A lot of participants were saying they'd love to come, but can't make the time (1 Million Cups meets Wednesdays at 9 a.m.)—we decided to fill the gaps," French said.
For their inaugural event, mixologist and "barpreneur" Jeret Peña talked about how he made the plunge into business ownership, while giving folks more info on his newest venture the Last Word (coincidentally, downstairs from the pop-up shop), and attendees had a chance to sample beverages using locally made Don Robertos Michelada Mix.
The location includes Popped Culture SA (artisanal, small batch popcorn in garlic dill pickle, kimchi and sauerkraut flavors); Cocina Heritage The Restaurant (owned by sisters Silvia Alcaraz and Lupita Rivero); Pawsitively Sweet Bakery; Painted Pony Clothing (which features novelty buttons and fun prints that help distinguish the user); local artist Priscilla Martinez's Joyarte jewelry line; and accessories from Chloe + Isabel by Meghan Garza.
We made a pit stop for a holiday sip at Bohanan's Bar (219 E Houston, (210) 472-2600). Their eggnog recipe, which was recently featured in Texas Monthly by columnist David Alan (of Tipsy Texan) is simple enough, but requires some skill and several ingredients I'd rather not purchase in bulk. Instead, why not have co-head bartender Jordan Corney, ye of handsome face, mix one up for you on the way to your next stop. At $13, the nog is every bit as tasty and surprisingly light (considering the whole egg and heavy cream used). Order one and listen to some Jim Cullum Jazz on Tuesdays.
The Milam Building
115 E Travis, Ste 109
We deviated briefly off Houston to visit the Ame Collaborative, a gallery organized by artist Michele Jacobs (also known for her work with PechaKucha SA and Awesome SA), with featured artists Mat Kubo, Shea McGilvray, Jack McGilvray, Benjamin McVey, Shannon Gowen, David Rangel, Javier Treviño and Lee Benner. The space is part gallery and part shop with just a hint of a bar—thanks to free samples of Milagro tequila and wine (Michele is married to one of our favorite sommeliers Fabien Jacob after all). The Esquire Tavern joined the pop-up this past weekend with $5 cocktails.
"It's part of what makes things work," Michele said. "As long as you have great music, great wine, good people, good company, what else do you need?"
The curated space includes photography, prints, sound installations and integrated media installations.
Ame will also feature local fashion line Bonjour Biqui on Saturday, December 20, for last-minute Christmas shopping, bites and bubbles.
The Book Building
140 E Houston, Ste 40-41
We hopped back onto Houston to end our tour with a stop at the Book Building, where the pop-ups include a small suite with cocktail samples and fine leather goods via Gonzalez Handmade, and Canvas—a "pop-up wine gallery and art bar" presented by Melissa Unsell of Vinously Speaking, and Angela and Manny Carral of Revolucion Coffee + Juice, who provide said java and jugo. The space offers an eclectic mix of photography and art for sale via Tuesday Phelps, Anel Flores of ARTery Studio, Sarah Brooke Lyons of the 1005 Faces project, Peter French and Michael Cirlos, the photojournalist behind Humans of San Antonio. The space is jazzy, bright and overwhelming, especially when roving crowds move in.
Pop in before the end of the month and spend your hard-earned bills on locally made goods and take SA back from its tourist stronghold.
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