Although its still not a "done deal" buying commercial property takes awhile especially for what we are doing. I'm happy to announce we have procured our building on main street! Its huge 1800's building I can't go into anymore detail than that. I will say that this is something my husband (hint)is doing along with investors. This is not BQ related other than the decor in the future and me being there a lot :) I hope this all goes thru we have been working on it for 7 months.It will probably be another 7 before we are ready to go IF it all works out as planned. Our town is booming and I'm happy we moved here when we did. This was the last remaining large building left on Main. Due to the size is why it was available and we needed something big. It was the original grocery store.As far as housing The great houses are gone.Mine is commercially zoned because we live off Main. Since we have two main entrances to our house 36 doors lol I have some new plans as far as BQ goes locally. They are doing another TV series here so Its great to sell direct locally. Heres more
Why some of Austin's biggest retail players are setting up shop in tiny Smithville
Catch up with the places and faces that are turning a sleepy hamlet into a vibrant shopping and eating destination
Feb 16, 2017, 10:00pm CST
Thousands of newcomers to Austin probably have never heard of Smithville — a small Texas town about 45 miles east of downtown.
It’s not that Smithville doesn’t have deep history or a bucolic setting. It’s just so tiny, with less than 4,000 full-time residents.
Busy State Highway 71 — a main route to Houston — bypasses downtown Smithville on the north. Blink and you might miss what’s afloat. But that reputation may quickly change now that new shops, bars and restaurants are opening in rapid succession as many Austinites perceive an opportunity — for investment, for creativity, for a new path to community.
At the center of this economic and social combustion are two of Austin’s favorite small business luminaries — Steve and Amy Simmons, founders and owners of Amy’s Ice Creams and Phil’s Ice House.
A decade ago they bought an 80-acre ranch southwest of Smithville — a getaway from all the complications of operating a growing restaurant chain and developing retail centers to support their brands and those of other fledging Austin entrepreneurs.
“I love living out here as much as I can,” Steve Simmons said. “And Amy is such an outdoor person who likes a small town.”
Having a rural retreat close to Austin was the perfect antidote to stress. “It probably saved our marriage and made it better,” he added.
A movie-makers’ paradise
Founded in 1827 and formally settled by the William Smith family, Smithville became an important railroad stop. By 1900 the city was a thriving center of commercial activity blessed with motivated civic leaders. Prosperity didn’t last when years later the railroad faltered and the populace departed for big-city economic opportunities. The charm and cachet never left, however.
In time, filmmakers such as Richard Linklater and Terrence Malick selected Smithville as the perfect backdrop for films such as “Bernie” and “The Tree of Life.” Other movies found their soul there, such as “Hope Floats,” starring former Austinite Sandra Bullock, “Natural Selection,” “Doonby” and “Beneath the Darkness,” starring Austin resident Dennis Quaid.
Still, most the time, Smithville was just another small town bypassed by impatient drivers.
Steve Simmons recalls a moment a couple of years ago after dining with his son Henry at the Back Door Cafe & Coffee Shop on Main Street. They stepped outside to utter silence.
“My son said, ‘Why isn’t anyone here?’” he remembered.
Before he could respond, Henry said, “Dad, you can fix this.”
“And that was the challenge he put to me,” Simmons said.
In short order Simmons purchased an historic building on NE Second Street.
“I loved this particular building. I didn’t even tell Amy I bought it. I was just going to do craft brewing,” Simmons said.
He finally summoned the courage to tell Amy and bring her to see the building and its regal 14-foot ceilings.
She, too, loved it, but not for craft brewing. Amy wanted to create an authentic pizzeria.
The couple embarked on a trip to Italy to learn the art of Neopolitan pizza-making and simultaneously made plans for the renovations. The new pizza brand has been dubbed Honey’s.
“This is all Amy’s design,” Steve Simmons said proudly.
An adjacent structure, meanwhile, was converted into an Amy’s Ice Creams kiosk with a large patio.
In the process, the couple sensed a collective, magnetic energy was forming.
“A domino effect,” Simmons called it.
The dominos fall
Another compelling factor was at play. Massive wildfires in nearby Bastrop in 2011 and another near Smithville in 2015 threatened to snuff out the entrepreneurial spark.
But in some cases it had the opposite effect. For example, Jeri and Walter Winslett, who lost their home in the Bastrop fire, moved to Smithville to start over. They opened Mosaic Art & Home on Main Street with the help of Nena and David Marsh, a craftsman who builds eclectic, colorful furniture. Mosaic features the work of local artists and hosts live music events — a favorite with locals.
A little town with a big heart, infused with the Simmons’ success and philanthropic attitude, has been life-changing to veteran townsfolk and newcomers alike who have opened new businesses or are in the process of setting up shop. All those involved say it’s pretty much a lovefest.
Jeff Peace, a former executive for a New York-based importer of alcoholic beverages, decamped to Smithville in 2010 and opened Bone Spirits Distillery, contributing more economic traction.
Linda and Stu Leibowitz purchased The Katy House Bed & Breakfast with ambitious plans for improvements.
Robert Tamble, a former executive with XTreme Power and Applied Materials Inc. in Austin, was recruited to be Smithville’s city manager in April 2014 with the idea of bringing a business and technology background to town governance.
Meanwhile, Simmons enthusiastically promoted Smithville to friends and business associates.
Ronald Cheng, owner of Chinatown restaurants in Austin, purchased a building downtown — possibly to open another location.
Simon Forster, an Austin chiropractor, bought a storefront across from Honey’s. Robin Kelley, a former Austin retailer, is a tenant in Forster’s building who opened Midnight Monkey Mercantile — a cool boutique.
Ted LeVieux, an Austin software developer, also sunk some cash into Smithville to renovate 205 Main St. He is still considering the retail options while preparing to renovate several houses in town. He also owns the Smithville Inn.
Bob Wynn, an executive with Cushman & Wakefield in Austin, purchased a classic downtown building and is close to signing a deal with a juicy name in the Austin barbecue business.
Simmons convinced the owners of Trinity Construction to lay claim to the former Pines Hotel right next door to Honey’s. That company is converting the property into modern apartments with historic gravitas.
Creative hub in the making
Other creative types have moved to Smithville, waving goodbye to Austin in the process, such as Stefanie Distefano, a highly lauded mosaic artist, who moved her Flamingo Studio to town.
“I had a pretty awesome life in Austin and wasn’t looking for change until all of a sudden I was packing my stuff,” Distefano said. “It is magic. Every day I cannot believe how charming it is here.”
Sammi Hill and Jeff Wise, founders of My Mixologie — a perfumer that sells individualized blends to fine salons, moved its corporate headquarters to Smithville.
“Smithville was missing a lot… a lot of the headaches and obstacles to growing a business,” Hill said. “For example, in a single day we signed a lease, set up utilities, executed business insurance policies and had a fabulous lunch — all within a quarter mile of our office. City Council members and neighboring business owners went out of their way to stop by and offer support. It’s been an ongoing welcome wagon.”
Simmons hasn’t worn out his welcome either. Recently, he opened Coach Q’s Social Club — a sports bar in the former Smithville Times headquarters. Locals Amy and Tony Quitta are partners in that venture, which includes a stunning historic bar rescued from St. Louis. Simmons is enthralled by every detail of the operation.
“This is a total labor of love,” he said.
Jan Buchholz covers commercial and residential real estate, construction and architecture and retail and restaurants for the Austin Business Journal.