A GIFT SHOP FOR MEN? HECK YES!
We are so excited about this interview with Lone Star Canvas & Sign Works and Lone Star Dry Goods shop owner Ted Evans. APPP Intern Jake Rosser did an incredible job giving us a tour of this new and unique downtown men's shop with all the right questions to ask a small shop owner. Again, we are inspired and motivated by the story of a small shop owner entrepreneur in Abilene, Tx! There's a beautiful mix of buying and investing in an existing business as well as launching something completely new as a whole other business venture. We love hearing how they have embraced the Instagram community with other small shops and makers, creating fun business relationships as a store front for the handmade craftsmen. What's more, we are so excited for how they are bringing these kind of unique items to the downtown shopping scene in Abilene! Enjoy this read and all it's beautiful images by Jake Rosser.
So tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm Ted Evans. I am forty years old, native of Abilene. Both of my parents are from here and I went to Cooper High School, graduated, went to A&M. I spent about six years in Houston in the energy business before I moved back here in 2004 I bought ABC Tent & Party Rental, which is kinda how this all came about because the original business was Abilene Tent and Awning.
Who are all the people behind the business?
Well, I've been married for five years, so my wife has been part of this. Her name is Allicyn Evans. She's been a big part of the retail and stuff and getting that going. She's an attorney by trade, so we've kinda gotten to the point now where this is a full time gig for her. So yeah, we kinda did the party rental stuff and grew the canvas stuff. It's a small business, so really it's just me essentially. I'm the CEO, secretary, and payroll person, so it kinda feels like a one man show.
What was it like starting your own business in Abilene?
Well, luckily I was able to buy a company that had been around since the 70's. So that's a whole different animal than starting your own business because you got an existing customer base and an a company name, so that's a huge plus. It was definitely beneficial to do it back in Abilene where I had ties and connections. I moved here from Houston, so knowing people that work at banks in Abilene and feeling comfortable approaching people about business loans or what not is a whole lot easier than a big city where you don't know anybody. That makes a lot of difference to do it in a small town. I didn't intend to move back here, but I literally moved back here to regroup and get out of the energy business. I was gonna look for like an industrial sales job or something in Dallas or Austin. Being the small town Abilene is and with growing up here and my parents being here, literally the first week that we were back we knew the people selling the tent business. I always wanted to have my own business, I just didn't know when or how, but here it was. I don't want to say that it fell into my lap, but I saw the opportunity and I jumped on it. Been here ever since.
What was the vision behind the store?
We felt like there was a need in Abilene for men's shopping and gift items. Men's lifestyle kinda falls under those categories. Our concept is to carry brands, as much as possible, that are American made...handmade, hand crafted. In Abilene, as far as men's shopping or men's gifts go, it's limited to like Academy and men's Dillards. So we wanted to create a store where we know Abilene hasn't had something like this with these kind of men's options. We carry items that are very unique that you won't really find outside of like the Metroplex. That's the concept anyway. It seems to be well-received so far.
You said you were from Abilene...how does it feel to be apart of some of the other unique businesses in downtown that have come up after moving back? How is it to be apart of a little community down here?
Well, it's very cool! When I grew up here, I didn't have a reason to come downtown unless I was going to the post office. So literally there was no reason to. There was a generation right before me, like 50's and 60's, where downtown was where all the shopping was. So when that died out or changed for whatever reason, it left downtown stagnant for awhile. It takes time, but it is very cool that the buildings downtown have been bought up and cool things are happening. It's also one of the challenges of most of the shopping being on the south side...there's so many people that don't know that there's a restaurant downtown or there's shopping over here.
Where did the inspiration come from to design the place in a cool, manly hipster vibe?
I guess the best way to describe it is that this is my taste. These are the things that I like and we like the vintage/industrial look and a lot of this stuff is actually from my house. My friend went to a store somewhere else and told me about it, and it was essentially everything that the guy wanted to buy himself and so that's the stuff he put in the store. So like Simms, shirts I've been buying for years and their hats as well as some of the other items in here. So a lot of it is stuff that I've liked and wanted, good products that I wanted to bring into the store. A lot of people will ask where we find some of these things. Most of it is through the internet, just research as well as Instagram. Companies pop up and I think that's what's pretty cool about Instagram. It seems like everybody kinda supports each other. Nationwide, it seems like there is a following for this type of stuff as well as a community through these different businesses. It's fun!
How is it being located in downtown Abilene?
On the canvas side it's not too big of a deal. We are the only ones in town that do what we do on that side of our business and I guess on the retail side as well. When people know that they need a new awning or a new cover or tarp or whatever they're just going to have to find our address and come to our location. It's a little bit harder with the retail because although downtown is coming along, it's not like the traffic on Catclaw Dr. or some other parts of Abilene. Lucky for us, we already own the building, so it wasn't a huge risk. We aren't taking out a lease or anything like that. With the direction of downtown, it's coming along, and we have time to ride it out and see where it goes.
Tell us about the brands you use in the store. What all do you guys sell?
Yeah, there's probably too many brands to mention. Probably the most familiar ones are Filson, Simms Fishing, Rep Your Water Hats. We have a great selection of different companies and selection of t-shirts. Candles, knives, watches, shirts, hot sauces, drink mixes, flashlights, thermoses, coolers, wallets. Theoretically, if you're a guy and you need something, we have a lot.
Now along with your brands, I hear that your inventory is changing pretty frequently too. How does that work?
Ones that are really popular, we'll try to re-order. And that's the good thing about some of the smaller companies we work with. We can just fill in with small orders. We don't have to make big, hefty orders and have hundreds of shirts to fill in or something. It's cool that we are able to order in small quantities and refill. If we sold out or something, like you said, we'd try to order something different or new. Yeah, it's definitely not gonna be the same stuff over and over. We'll keep the variety up for sure.
Tell us about the canvas part of the business. What all do you guys create with that?
Awnings and tarps are probably the big two. We do tarps of all kinds. People drop off their trailers and we repair tarps, make new tarps, kind of a whole turn key deal. So those are the two big ones and probably the third big one is the utility industrial bags for the windmill industry. We actually make a 600lb bag that is used to hoist tools up to the tops of the towers. It's made specifically for GE. It's pretty cool that we get email purchase orders and we ship them up to GE, which is one of the largest companies in the world. A lot of our work is custom, but we are trying to get more into widgets. A lot of people will call in for random patterns and orders for stuff they need made and if they have specific dimensions, we are able to just plug them into the computer.
What are some goals you plan to achieve with such a unique place like this? You guys are pretty original and one of a kind in Abilene.
As far as the canvas side, expanding on the bags that we make and sell and expanding on widgets. We have a lot of people emailing and asking "can you make this?" It's just apart of a larger picture. There may be a piece of equipment that has all these different components and one small component of it is a tarp or piece of fabric for whatever reason. But our machine should be running everyday. Now up here on the retail, we are just gonna let it run organically and see where it goes. It's exciting!
Just for fun, how would you sum up the place into like one word? Because you have so many things going on in this place.
I think I'd say Men's Lifestyle. Or like Americana. We are using that a lot. Maybe Americana Men's Lifestyle or Men's Lifestyle with a slice of Americana. (lol)
Is there anything you would like to share with your customers or to people who are just now discovering you guys?
Come out and shop! We have the most unique variety for guys, so if you want something unique and something you can't find in Abilene then we got it!