The Scoop on the Loop Part 1: West North Loop

Liliana Hall and Anna-Kay Reeves

Records, vintage clothes and coffee make a Holy Trinity of a hip afternoon. What more could Austinites ask for? Plants, maybe.

The 200 block of North Loop offers not only the trinity of Breakaway Records, Blue Velvet Vintage and Epoch Coffee, but also Flourish, a small succulent shop which appeared on the scene a little over a year ago. The shopping center has a cult-like following thanks to its relaxed and trendy feel, making it a must-visit in the North Loop neighborhood.

Breakaway, an independent record store vending vinyl LP’s and 45’s since the 1920s, is owned and operated by Josh LaRue and Gabe Vaughn. LaRue said they relocated their shop from East 5th to the North Loop because there were similar aesthetics already in the area.

“It’s a perfect spot, because if you aren’t into records, there are other things you can do,” LaRue said. “The vibe of these three spots all match because of the type of people we are. There is some kind of subconscious level to trying to make our place comfortable to the type of people that go to Epoch and Blue Velvet. But it is all fairly organic.”

The vintage shop, Blue Velvet, which shares its name with the classic Bobby Vinton song, is a dreamy place where shoppers can find everything from mood rings to ironic t-shirts.

“I think it’s perfect,” Blue Velvet curator Carmen Knight said of the shop’s location. “It’s like you study with coffee, take a break and go listen to some music. Then you can come here and get a cool outfit for that night.”

Blue Velvet’s clothing selection is unique in that buyers like Knight travel buying pieces for the shop. They don’t buy from the public as many vintage stores do.

According to Knight, when buying for Blue Velvet she works to curate a balance between the trendy and the classic, as well as buy pieces that will work for customers across the spectrum of tastes.

“We try to incorporate everybody,” Knight said. “Shapes, sizes, styles. That’s really important for me as a buyer and for the store overall.”

As of now, Blue Velvet has a beefed up selection of costumes and festive fall looks on their racks and in their window display.

After spicing up Halloween costumes or finding a new favorite scarf, stop by Epoch Coffee, a 24/7 hub with fiercely loyal clientele and a reliable Wi-Fi connection.

“It’s pronounced EE-poch,” said Micah McKee, a native Austinite and Epoch regular. “Maybe that’s not how you say the word, but if you come here, that’s what you call it.”

According to McKee, it’s Epoch’s location that keeps her coming back.

“It’s very homey, very old Austin,” McKee said. “This whole area has stayed pretty constant over the years. And the fact that it’s 24 hours is huge. There are only so many places you can go at 4 a.m.”

Even without deep pockets, this area is worth a visit. Breakaway and Blue Velvet make for entertaining browsing even if $20 is too much to drop, and $5 at Epoch will get a well-made drink. So make a pilgrimage into North Austin and experience everything this trifecta has to offer.