AUSTIN, Texas - Wednesday afternoon the front door to Tesoros Trading Company on South Congress stayed busy. On Sunday, the front door will close for the final time.
Tesoros has been at its South Congress location for 15 years. When COVID hit in 2020, the owners had to temporarily close the store and lay off 11 people.
They survived the pandemic, but co-owner Kisla Jimenez called it a "crossroads" that eventually led to their decision to move away from traditional retail.
"We’ve been very pleased and gratified with the reception of Austinites to our business and now from tourists and visitors from around the country and around the world," said Jimenez, who owns the store with her husband Jonathan Williams. "It's been very gratifying to have grown a business in a city like Austin that has grown exponentially in the last few decades."
That’s just about how long they’ve been in business. Williams first opened the store at a downtown location 33 years ago before making the move south.
Williams studied history and Latin American studies in college and has always been entrepreneurial, according to Jimenez.
"He has always loved and respected the representation of different cultures in this way," said Jimenez. "So he figured out how to work with artisans and make a business out of it and also in a way that benefited the artisans."
The store offers handmade treasures, or "tesoros", from more than 25 countries. Jimenez and Williams have been to most of the countries represented, and many of the artisans they work with they have met personally.
"We just love to see where it's made, who makes it and see the process so that we can really represent what we're selling," said Jimenez. "We also just love learning about all these different cultures."
Store Manager Julia Mulholland has watched many customers coming in and out of the store as a 15-year employee. She has observed their unique items spark everything from a learning opportunity to a sense of nostalgia.
"You get a mixture of everything from people coming in and going, ‘What are all these skulls about? It’s so morbid,’ and you have to explain what Day of the Dead is," she said. "Or you get people that are like, 'Wow, I'm from here and this is amazing.'"
She said some of their regular customers are from out of state, or even out of the country, and will make a point to stop at the store when traveling to Austin.
Going forward, the business model will look a little different. However, retiring their brick-and-mortar won’t mean retiring their passion.
"We know that we're going to continue working with artisans and trying to promote this art form as we continue, because we're so passionate about it, we really believe in it," said Jimenez. "We feel like it’s still going to continue, it’s just in a different way."
Jimenez said they will focus more on wholesale, online sales and selling to other shops or museum shops. They’ll also occasionally have pop-ups and plan to have a booth at the upcoming Texas Book Festival.
Sunday will be the store’s last day. It will be open from noon to 5 p.m. and Jimenez said they will donate 100% of their sales that day to multiple nonprofits.
Tesoros Trading Company is currently located at 1500 South Congress Ave.