THE 'BIG YELLOW TAXI' EFFECT
If you’ve lived in Lavaca and King William for the past twenty or twenty-five years, you’ve seen a lot of changes.
On the whole, it’s probably been a good thing. Boarded up commercial buildings now house thriving businesses. Abandoned homes have been renovated and re-occupied. The neighborhood hosts festivals of one kind or another throughout the year.
There’s been a downside, too. Home prices and property taxes have skyrocketed. Commercial rents have ballooned.
We’ve also lost a lot of the funkiness that, over the years, has given the neighborhood its character.
Think of the Joni Mitchell song, ‘Big Yellow Taxi’.
‘They paved paradise,’ she sang, ‘and put up a parking lot, with a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swinging hot spot. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’
(If you’re a literalist, let me point to the demise of the much-loved Acapulco ice house, which is now, literally, a parking lot across the street from Battalion.)
However, there’s still an island of genuine funkiness in Lavaca, on South Presa at Callaghan, just a block off South Alamo. It’s an old commercial building that currently holds a coffee bar, a CBD parlor, an art gallery, and a barbershop.
All together, they’ve hung on to the funkiness that once defined the entire neighborhood.
Aaron Garza has just opened Tumbleweed coffee. Aaron roasts his own beans (seven different blends and single-origin roasts). He's open seven days per week.
Little Bud Hudson (yes, he assures us, that’s his real given name) gives off a 1960s vibe. His name, with its hint of California communes, certainly contributes to that vibe, but there’s also his look and his business.
Little Bud really does look like he could have traveled with the Grateful Dead or The Band, supplying everyone’s weed requirements. And today he operates Remedy, which he calls Southtown’s CBD Parlor, carrying edibles, smoke-ables, and ointments.
It’s not just a shop. Little Bud invites you to stay and enjoy purchases on site, especially on weekends and First Fridays.
“We’re one of the few places — or maybe the only place — here in San Antonio, where you can come in, get a cold beer on donation, roll one up, and sit outside and enjoy the artwork here and next door.”
He says that Remedy carries products from Willie Nelson, Sisters of the Valley, Charlotte’s Web, Crystal Creek and other national brands, and he emphasizes that he chooses Texas-grown products, whenever he can.
Little Bud says that he’s been in business for about five years, along with a partner, Andrew Carrizales, with whom he had previously operated a construction business. When he opened the shop, Little Bud and his family also moved into the neighborhood. His home is less than a block away from his business, his daughter attends Brackenridge, and his wife — while working on her doctorate at Our Lady of The Lake — has a counseling business nearby. Son Noah operates a second Remedy location at the Majestic.
Remedy is open seven days a week, from 10 AM until 10 PM on weekdays and from 10 AM until 11 PM on weekends.
You can visit Remedy on Instagram.
HOT BOX GALLERY
Robert Tatum is a well-known artist in San Antonio and in this neighborhood. Back in the 1990s, he was one of the neighborhood residents pushing to put Southtown on the map. He talks about how he and other artists promoted First Fridays and Art in the Hood, bringing people from the suburbs into our neighborhood and establishing the foundations for the restaurants, boutiques, apartments, and other businesses that thrive here today.
And, he adds, eventually leading to artists being priced out of the neighborhood they helped create.
Today, he runs a small gallery and shop right next to Remedy.
Owner Little Bud Hudson and customers during a Second Saturday event at Remedy.
One of the first things you’ll see, when you approach the building from Alamo Street, is a small black trailer with a sign outside: Coffee.
That’s new. Aaron Garza just opened his place, Tumbleweed Coffee, in August. He rents the retail space directly behind the trailer, and he’s fixing it up for indoor seating, but right now, the trailer is his home. He says that the trailer has served him well so far, because people notice it. It’s more effective than just putting up a sign.
Aaron roasts his own beans. He’s been roasting since 2017, he says. Right now, he produces a total of seven blends and single origin roasts.
‘I’m passionate about the beans,’ he says. ‘I make a really good cup, but I’m always trying to learn more and get better.’
In addition to a full menu of coffee drinks, Aaron also sells his roasted beans by the pound and half-pound, and he has some light pastries and croissant sandwiches. When he moves indoors, he says he’ll expand the food menu and also begin doing some coffee tastings.
The trailer will depart when that happens, but the outdoor seating will probably remain. And, he says, he’ll likely use the trailer to open another location.
Tumbleweed is open from 7:30 AM until 2:00 PM every day. It’s also open evenings for events, like First Friday and Second Saturday.
REMEDY CBD PARLOR
Robert Tatum, sitting in the featured artist gallery at Hot Box.
Half the space in Hot Box is given over to Robert’s own work — prints, tee shirts, and his line of pre’-rolled ‘Jax Fine Hemp, Texas Premium CBD’.
He describes his own artwork as ‘low-brow underground.’
‘I try to keep it in good taste,’ he says, ‘but it’s a little strange.’
The other half of the space is a gallery dedicated to introducing young artists. Each month, a different local artist is featured. The gallery currently features velvet paintings by Connie Chapa.
Hot Box is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 2:00 PM until 8:00 PM.
Guapo’s Barbershop has been operating for two-and-a-half years now, says owner Mario Mars.
Prior to opening the shop, he worked as a barber in the main PX at Lackland Air Force Base.
‘But we always loved Southtown,’ he says. ‘We rode our bikes around here. We came out for First Friday, for the culture and the art. So this is where I wanted to be.’
He now has three barbers, in addition to himself. ‘We’re mostly appointment-based,’ he explains, ‘but we also do walk-ins.’
The shop caters to men. ‘We do fades, the younger styles, gentlemen’s cuts, braids.’
‘We’ve tried to make the place comfortable,’ Mario says. ‘So pop in, have a beer, and say hello.’
Guapo’s is closed on Sundays and Mondays. It’s open Tuesday through Friday from 10 AM to 7 PM and on Saturday from 10 AM until 4 PM.
The building is owned by Baldemar Villarreal, Jr. and his two sisters, Cynthia Siller and Sandra Ross.
It was purchased by their parents back in the early 1980s, and their mother operated a hair salon, Sandy’s Beauty Parlor, in the building for thirty-four years. It was in the space now occupied by Remedy.
The family home is located on Guenther Street, but both mother and father have passed away and the children — although they still own the home — no longer live in the neighborhood.
Over the years, the building has had different uses, including, at one time, as seven efficiency apartments. In fact, the space occupied by Hot Box was previously two apartments.
The building hasn’t ever had a name. ‘We just called it ‘the salon’, Baldemar says.
Regarding the future, he says: ‘We just want to keep the business going and make it better.’
Jim Feuerstein is co-editor of LNF Weekly; he also designs and manages the website.
Remedy CBD parlor has both indoor and outdoor seating.
Some shots of the Hot Box gallery and the neighboring Guapo's Barber Shop.
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