While taking walks through my Heights neighborhood, as I’ve become accustomed to doing since the beginning of quarantine, I occasionally take a turn down Aurora Street, stopping at Angela’s Bakery for a loaf cranberry walnut bread or Tenfold Coffee for a cappuccino.
Recently, though, I happened upon a charming bungalow with new signage out front: Relic General Store.
Inside, Linda Trieu, founder of baby clothing brand Three Hearts Apparel, and close friend and creator of Bear Cub Leather Goods, Manuel Lopez, have set up a one-stop shop for quality goods—clothing for men, women, and children; hand-poured candles; fragrances; pillows and more thoughtful gifts; and even food items—all with a neighborhood feel and a vintage touch.
“Classic general stores don’t really exist anymore, and we wanted to be more than your average [convenience] store,” says Trieu. “We wanted to be a neighborhood place where people can stop in and have access to artisan products at a reasonable price.”
Trieu and Lopez met at a flea market at Houston’s Silver Street Studios back in 2017, where each was running their own booth. “We traveled the same circuit together and each have kids around the same age, so we quickly became really close friends,” says Trieu.
Through their experiences at markets and shows, the pair have garnered access to tons of locally produced, artisan products, and have developed favorites of their own. “We have long been consumers of cute boutique goods and good food, and whenever things are produced in smaller quantities, they’re usually better quality,” says Lopez. “Relic allows us a way to share products we personally use and love and it gave us a way to combine our aesthetics, which individually are very different.”
Products include Hive honey, produced locally in Houston, and caramels from the Caramel Kitchen (Relic is the only Heights business to carry them), as well as the store’s own line of pepper jellies, currently in development.
The building itself also houses Lopez’s leather-working studio, where customers can get a firsthand look at his work in progress and also commission custom pieces. “We’re hoping to start doing classes at the store as well, such as make-your-own-wallet or make-your-own-belt classes,” he says.
The prospect of opening a business in the throes of a pandemic is daunting, but Trieu and Lopez remain hopeful. “Opening a general store right now seems crazy,” says Lopez, “However, it could work to our advantage because here, you don’t have the same lines you’d have at H-E-B or another store; you can shop here at your own convenience and not have to worry about dozens and dozens of other people.”
Trieu also believes the neighborhood aspect of the store will draw in support. “Small businesses were hit so hard during the pandemic, but right now there is a lot of momentum and attention being paid to supporting small businesses,” she says. “I think people want to start intentionally helping small businesses thrive.”
Relic’s official grand opening is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, December 12, and Lopez himself will be crafting custom leather goods on site. From then on, the store is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays at 205 Aurora St.