A bookshop and a boutique grocery store are headed to Hyde Park's former post office space
Since the beloved post office in Austin’s Hyde Park neighborhood shuttered in June 2021, neighbors have wondered what will become of the spot at the corner of 43rd Street and Speedway. The one-story brick building has remained vacant since its closure, serving as little more than a canvas for graffiti.
But new details are coming to light about its future. The 55-year-old structure will be renovated and subdivided into retail and restaurant space. Two tenants, Tiny Grocer and First Light Books, have confirmed they’ll be opening up shop there next year.
“I love that neighborhood,” said Steph Steele, owner of the local market Tiny Grocer. “Hyde Park was always on my list of where I think [this store] would do well and be well received and serve the community in a great way.”
Located in Central Austin, Hyde Park is considered to be the city’s oldest suburb. It contains many historic homes, small apartment complexes, an old fire station, the Elisabet Ney Museum and some local eateries, like Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery and Julio’s Cafe. When it was announced early last year that the long-running post office on Speedway would be closing, concerns — and gossip — began swirling through the neighborhood, as residents feared losing a walkable resource that contributed to the area’s quaint feel. The U.S. Postal Service had been leasing the building, and when it vacated, the property owner said he didn’t have another tenant lined up.
But now construction is underway, and at least two businesses have signed leases for the space. Tiny Grocer is a boutique food store and cafe that opened on South Congress early last year. The Hyde Park spot, which is slated to open in the first half of 2023, will be the business’ second location.
Steele said the new store will offer items she handpicks herself, including beer and wine, locally made products, produce and more. The kitchen will serve breakfast, sandwiches, salads and burgers. Brunch will be served on the weekends. Customers will also be able to order beer and wine by the glass, coffee, pastries and vegan soft serve from a standalone bar area.
There will be indoor and outdoor seating, with part of the former post office’s loading dock turning into a patio. Steele said she envisions Tiny Grocer as a gathering space for the walkable neighborhood.
“I imagine ladies having a piece of cake and a glass of wine and catching up,” Steele said. “I imagine people buying periodicals at the bookstore and sitting and enjoying a breakfast item or a cup of coffee.”
The market’s new neighbor, First Light Books, is being spearheaded by husband-and-wife team Taylor and Robin Bruce. Taylor Bruce is known in the literature world for founding Wildsam Field Guides, an independent publisher that produces travel guidebooks. But First Light is a new venture, and the Hyde Park spot will be its first location.
“It’s been on my mind for a long time, kind of a dream to have a small independent bookstore,” Taylor Bruce said. “We started really thinking seriously about it probably two years ago and felt like a neighborhood bookstore was important in our mind, a place that was very walkable and very community-based.”
When he saw the post office in Hyde Park was closing last year, he thought the space would be the perfect location, so he reached out to the owner and eventually signed a lease. He said the buildout will begin in September, and the store will ideally be open by March.
Bruce describes the store as a classic, all-purpose bookstore. The space will be about 2,500-square-feet, and carry a curated selection of fiction and nonfiction titles, cookbooks, art books and more. There will be a cafe in the store as well, serving coffee, beer, wine and snacks.
“First Light, the name, sort of calls to the feeling of early mornings and the atmosphere of the early morning,” Bruce said. “The coffee window will be open bright and early, probably the earliest place in Austin to get a good cup of coffee.”
Two other spaces will be leased out of the post office, according to city documents, but those businesses have yet to be announced. KUT reached out to Blake Thompson, the owner of the property, for comment but did not hear back.
Thompson also owns the parking lot across Speedway, which he’s trying to rezone to build small cottages for commercial use, according to city documents. He told Hyde Parker Magazine in March that the cottages could be used as food service, a yoga studio or an art gallery on the first floor and possibly be residential on the second. The rezoning would require approval from the City Council. Many nearby residents have signed a petition or written to the city opposing the change, urging the council to keep the property’s zoning residential as Austin faces a housing crisis.
The changes coming to the post office property, though, were welcome news to residents like Joan Yamini, who has lived in Hyde Park for about two decades. But, she says, she still misses the post office.
“If I had to choose, I think I'd keep the post office,” Yamini said. “But this is probably the next best thing.”
The post office had been a sort of community space, a place where neighbors would bump into each other while dropping off a package or buying stamps. Yamini said she sees this new business as another opportunity for that.
“Up on the corner where all the restaurants are, there are always people walking there and running into each other,” she said. “I’m sure the Tiny Grocer will provide yet another corner to run into people on, which is nice.”
Another Hyde Park resident, Susi Spies, said she worries what impact a new grocer will have on the longtime local grocery store in the neighborhood, Fresh Plus. She said a lot of residents have relied on Fresh Plus, especially during the pandemic, and she doesn’t think another grocery store is really needed.
“I just hate to see the old guys lose out when they're doing a good job and serving the neighborhood,” Spies said.
Spies, too, said she misses the post office. The next closest one is on Lamar, but Spies said since the closure of the Hyde Park location, it’s been overrun and often has long lines. She said she hopes the owner of the Hyde Park property puts in a small storefront post office. That idea had been bounced around at a Hyde Park Neighborhood Association meeting last year, but it’s unclear if that will actually happen.
The new business owners, though, say they might commemorate the space’s history as a longtime post office in some way.
“There is something up my sleeve, but I'm not really talking about it,” Steele said. “I'll just say I hope to do something that's a little nod to the neighborhood of what it was.”