Unlike many small retailers that have left South Congress Avenue because of skyrocketing rent, owners Jonathan Williams and Kisla Jimenez said they are simply ready to “retire” the shop and focus on different things.
“We are so grateful for the opportunity to have the business in Austin, and for the reception that we have received,” Jimenez said. “We really hand-selected everything we sold, and we truly loved seeing the joy and the creativity of local artisans. It has been gratifying to support that craftmanship and to encourage the production of handmade things.”
The store’s last day at 1500 S. Congress Ave. will be June 26. Williams and Jimenez said they will then concentrate on wholesale and online sales, with occasional pop-up stores, including a planned booth at the Texas Book Festival in November.
The next tenant to move into the space, which has been home to local merchants for decades, will be Tecovas, the Austin-based maker of cowboy boots and western wear. Tecovas, which raised $56 million this year to expand nationally, will close its current store at 1333 S. Congress Ave. to make the move to the new site.
Meanwhile, Tesoros will continue to sell to retailers around the country, with museum shops being a primary customer, Jimenez said.
“It wasn’t the rent; after 35 years, it was the right time,” Jimenez said. “In the end, it’s all good. But we’re going to miss people. We will miss them so much.”
Williams started the import business from his garage, selling crafts he brought back from travels to Peru. In 1989, Tesoros opened in downtown Austin in a former print store at Second Street and Congress Avenue — a location now home to the JW Marriott Austin hotel.
The business moved to its current home 15 years ago. The 4,000-square-foot store sells a variety of folk art, jewelry, clothing, furniture and textiles from more than 30 countries including Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United States and Vietnam.
“It’s been very gratifying to provide products that appeal to such a wide range of people,” Jimenez said. “For us, it’s the diversity of products but also the range of price points. You can find something from 25 cents to thousands of dollars.”
Over the years, the shop has built a loyal following from Austin, across Texas and around the world, Jimenez said.
“We are obviously business people, and we are very grateful to have made a living out of this. What propels us is to introduce people to different cultures and to encourage the continuation of the way that folk art and handmade things represent a culture,” she said. “We have worked with generations of artisan families, and we look forward to continue doing so.”
‘They will be deeply missed’
Longtime customers are mourning the Tesoros closure.
“They created a community that brought together people and artisans from all over the world,” said Sharon Smith, an Austin resident who has been visiting the store for years. “There is a sense of loss. There is no other place like this, that connected so many people. They will be deeply missed.”
Like most retailers, Tesoros took a hit from the coronavirus pandemic. Jimenez said it affected every element of the business, including staffing and importing products.
“The pandemic hit everybody, and we had to lay off 11 people, which was really hard to do,” Jimenez said. “We were very grateful that our core group of five or six people came back. We hire part-timers, college students, creative people. When we told them we were going to do this, they understood. They’re fine with it and will go on to big things.”
She added, “The pandemic has proven that we’ve all reevaluated what we’re doing.”