Home > Uncategorized > “The Only Constant is Change”

“The Only Constant is Change”

Bob note to you – This article and photos of mine were first published in the Wheatsville Co-op newspaper The Breeze in its January & February 2013 issue here in Austin.

Lips - Lead Singer of Anvil - simply speaks the Truth

Lips – Lead Singer of Anvil – simply speaks the Truth

“The Only Constant is Change”

In the wonderful 2009 music documentary – “Anvil: The Story of Anvil” – Lips, the lead singer of the decades-old iconic Anvil metal band that never quite made the Big Time – says “Time does not move backward. The only constant is Change.” Back in the 60s the Byrds said the same thing in their mantra song “Change is Now” and Bob Dylan sang “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

Lips with his Anvil metal band at Emo's in Austin touring early 2010 on their documentary film

Lips with his Anvil metal band at Emo’s in Austin touring early 2010 on their documentary film

All Bob Kinney Words and Photos

Change has accelerated in Austin since I moved here for the music vibe life in 1978. Since then, we have lost treasured music venues like the Armadillo, Liberty Lunch and Soap Creek Saloon. Our downtown area looks more like Dallas every year and six condo developments are currently upscaling the landscape along South Lamar. Construction around the Broken Spoke has led to the disappearance of its funky landmark – an old-timey Texas Western Swing musician bus (sure hope it returns).

Katie Rose Pipkin – a young friend of mine who is an Austin native and my favorite artist – recently put all this Change into perspective for me. “It is what it is,” she simply said.

While we Austin old-timers have seen many Changes that are uncomfortable to us, we must also celebrate what Change is new and fun, as well as cherish what remains with us – from our Wheatsville Co-op and Eeyore’s Birthday to Barton Springs and other natural gems like Mayfield Park.

Eeyore's Birthday always brings out the Best of Austin

Eeyore’s Birthday always brings out the Best of Austin

I celebrate, for example, the March 2012 opening and imaginative growth of the Wardenclyffe Gallery at Springdale Road and Oak Springs in East Austin. Katie Rose Pipkin and Wheatsville staffer Olivia Pepper envisioned a place where an eclectic variety of art, music, theater and performance art would flourish – and it certainly has with the support of many Wheatsville folks.

Katie Rose Pipkin and Olivia Pepper, right, imagined and transformed their backyard The Island into the Wardenclyffe Gallery in March 2012

Katie Rose Pipkin and Olivia Pepper – photo right – imagined and transformed their backyard The Island into the Wardenclyffe Gallery in March 2012

Wardenclyffe is but one example of the recent explosion of art, music, dance and food & clothing trailers on the East Side. The annual East Side and Central Art Studio Tours get bigger each year.

Not SXSW– John Conquest’s four-day, free music event whose motto proclaims “You Don’t Need a Stinkin’ Wristband” – grows larger in South and East Austin each mid-March as the other SXSW continues to clog up downtown with mega-corporate slime.

A Change I have most enjoyed is the growth of our Co-op Movement here in Austin. Wheatsville was the only food co-op in Austin – let alone Texas – when I served on our board from 1994 to 2009 – mostly as board president. During that time our Wheatsville board helped mentor the birth of Black Star Beer Co-op that has celebrated its first birthday earlier this year. Wheatsville now stocks the tasty vegan donuts that the Red Rabbit Co-op folks create.

When Wheatsville folks gathered in the Lamar Oaks shopping center at 4001 S. Lamar last June to celebrate our second location current board president Rose Marie Klee shared her vision of a string of other co-ops (a second Black Star and Red Rabbit bakery and unnamed co-ops yet to be born) sharing that shopping center with Wheatsville. Many thanks to Rose Marie and the rest of our current board for consistently reaching out to a variety of local folks and growing our Austin Co-op Movement.

Wheatsville folks celebrate their South Store slated to open in June 2013

Wheatsville folks celebrate their South Store slated to open in June 2013

Wheatsville has changed much since I first began regular shopping at the co-op in 1986. Since then, all the Changes I have experienced in our co-op were needed to ensure our existence and make growth possible.

Our store renovation during 2008-09 grew Wheatsville without losing the Austin-loved WV Vibe.

Our staff, other owners and non-owner shoppers dealt with Change daily back then. Whole sections of our store were rearranged and then moved again – and yet again – as renovation & expansion steadily continued. Our staffers finally got out of the cramped store office trailer at the northeast corner of our lot and settled into a pleasant working space north of our store that gave much-needed elbow room with central a/c and heat, a big meeting room and large windows that brought the sunlight in.

Since then our staff has almost tripled and our yearly sales and net profit have soared to levels unthinkable back in my board years when we hoped for a strong fourth quarter to give us a year’s profit of about $20,000. The 2011-12 Wheatsville annual report lists our sales at $17 million and our profit of about $350,000.

Again, this has been accomplished without losing the WV Vibe – a community love for Wheatsville that has led to us being consistently voted Best Neighborhood Grocery in the annual Austin Chronicle Best Of Austin reader poll.

In addition to each Wheatsville team head and staffer, thanks and gratitude must go to Dan Gillotte for always widening his vision and leading our co-op into the future.

I am pleased to state again that the best thing our board did was to hire Dan, work with him for a Better Wheatsville and delight as his managerial vision and ability blossomed. It is no surprise that Dan has become a top leader in the Co-op Movement throughout the United States. Next June’s National Cooperative Grocers Association convention will be held in Austin so hundreds of our fellow co-opers from throughout our country who named us Best Co-op of 2011 can experience the Wonder of Wheatsville first hand.

Favorite photo of me

Favorite photo of me

In anticipation of building our second location at 4001 South Lamar, the Guadalupe store has been tweaked recently with some nice Changes.

Moving the bulk area to share open aisle space with produce is an imaginative move and shows on a smaller scale what shoppers will see when they enter the new Wheatsville down south. It opens up space for bulk shoppers to do their thing in better lighting and, to my eye, makes our produce look that much brighter since the bulk containers are a neutral color.

Accommodating the bulk move, each grocery aisle moved a bit to the north and some items were rearranged. The one move that provided an “A-Ha Smile” to me was discovering salsa jars now stocked with chips.

The former bulk space at the southeast part of our store is now filled with paper goods, cleaning items, pet food and a water machine like the one outside Wheatsville before renovation. Leftover space is used for rotating displays and provides ample space for tastings.

I eagerly await the opening of our south store – though not as much as the 78704 folks who have long lobbied for a Wheatsville South.

In addition to experiencing what a larger Wheatsville will look like, I expect shopping at our Guadalupe store will be less crowded with more immediate parking easily available.

The healthy growth of our Wheatsville is a Change I Believe In.

Bob Kinney shops in Wheatsville just about every day. He enjoys taking photos of Wheatsville folks whether they are playing on the co-op’s Virgins of Guadalupe softball team, cheering the team from the bleachers or partying like only Wheatsville folks can. See Bob’s photos and read his words on his blog – Austin Music & More

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. December 27, 2012 at 2:37 am

    The first time I went into Wheatsville was mid sixties and I was amazed! This store is intricately linked to my love of Austin. Thanks for the memories, and sharing the wonderful news. Congrats Wheatsville!!!

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