Have you seen this purple-haired girl around town? (Yes, Kate likes it when you call her that.)
She runs a sort of mall inside a hotel inside an amazing city, called Waco.
Kate and her mother own and operate LaSalle Shoppes. Not only the springboard for several other Waco gems that started in her space (Loopy’s, Junque in the Trunk, Shades of Shabby, Junque Queen’s, and Flippin Furniture), LaSalle Shoppes hosts mini-stores for dozens of artists and sellers of collectibles from fancy to functional to just plain unusual.
But you will never guess the backstory of this locally-owned Waco business.
I had an honest chat with Kate, while Dylan manned the cash register and we had a few side conversations with customers. It went something like this...
What made you start this place?
“My mom and I started seven years ago. She had just retired from teaching,” Kate waves her hands dramatically, “and with the decline of the unpainted furniture demand, we decided to do something else.”
“This building was built back in the 40s as a hotel. On each side it had furniture shops. When Dad purchased it back in the 70s, we always had this idea and I had just moved back, so both Mom and I needed something to do. So Mom and I started the mall.”
“We signed on our very first vendor in August of 2011.”
“I still remember the first thing that I sold, too. It was the most atrocious yellow TV cabinet, of all things. It was hand-painted with flowers all over it, and was the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, to each their own, right? The buyers are still great customers!”
What keeps you up at night?
“The challenges for me are the happy medium between keeping my vendors happy and my customers happy. I essentially have two different forms of customers. The most difficult part is mediating the two, so nobody feels taken advantage."
“And… how to keep this kind of thing, antiques, current. The very first motto I came up with for the shop was ‘Lasalles Shoppes, Keeping Antiques Cool Since 2011.’”
“A bunch of resale shops started here! They all needed a place to test out the waters, and we were the perfect birthing place for them. I need to start a list! We’ve probably hosted the starting points for ten to fifteen different businesses here...”
Kate holds her lips and ponders, then smiles and says “...which I think is pretty cool that we had something to do with it.”
Tell me the Chip and Joanna Oops Story
“Well, she had called me one morning; we had just opened. Joanna said 'Hey, can we bring a film crew in?' It was still early and I didn’t think to ask any questions or anything.”
“They came here and recorded the whole show, much different in those days when they first started. They had Mom walk around with Joanna, because I knew better than to put a purple-haired tattooed girl on the TV.”
“And then there was Chip... Mom stuck her foot in her mouth, which she is pretty used to doing. She thought Chip was one of the film crew! She talked to him about how ‘Oh, I know Joanna,’ and he said ‘Me too; she’s my wife.’”
"My Mom turned five different shades of red on that one – she was so embarrassed."
“And there was this other time that was kind of embarrassing. Because we’re a family business, we had a family squabble in the store. And Joanna was standing there. Then I apologized, and Joanna said, ‘No, I understand, I’ve been in a family business too.’ It’s a small town with such huge personalities!”
“She’s been one of my customers since the very first year. And whenever we first started, she was just a regular customer who would come in and buy a bunch of stuff.”
Alright, Let’s Talk About You. Tell me Something Good.
And now we get to the weird stuff. There’s no better way than letting Kate tell these stories in her own words. Enjoy...
“I got tagged in something the other day, called Battle Armor for Your Cat. I have the meanest cat in the world. His name is Conan. Conan the Barbarian. He earned that name! I just now am healing from (Kate shows her scratched arm). He’s just barbaric! And I found him underneath my house. He was a feral kitten.”
“I have an absurd thing for Chris Pratt – from Guardians of the Galaxy. I fell in love with him on, what was that… Parks and Recreation? I would make a fool for that man.”
“Oh, but, that clown was the WEIRDEST ONE. A vendor brought in this… ceramic hobo. It had a bottle of beer in its hand. And Dylan came in here and, Dylan whistles all the time, and I hear whistling. And I say 'You know how I hate whistling, Dylan,' but Dylan was right here and nobody else was in here and we were still hearing whistling.”
“Waco Melody in Motion Willie, the whistler drunk hobo clown, is what it’s called now.”
Dylan Enters the Scene...
Kate continues with the weird stuff.
“And one of my vendors in here is a paranormal investigator that teaches a class in town. My brother swears that the hotel is haunted; I’m just going to leave it alone. Do you believe in that stuff, Dylan?” she turns and asks the employee at the register.
“I haven’t experienced anything, but I kind of believe in it,” Dylan says.
Kate continues, “I’ve had some customers tell me that they don’t like a particular section of the mall. It’s always the same area, in the furthest back corner. Again, I don’t believe in that stuff, but babies always cry right there.”
Dylan pipes in, “I could take a nap in the daytime, but overnight...” he vigorously shakes his head.
Why Do You Love Waco?
“I was born and raised here, but, honestly, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I love that it’s small, but expanding into something larger. And I kinda feel like – oh my gosh this is going to sound cheesy – I feel like I’m growing along with it," Kate smiles sheepishly. "I remember it being a small, just comfortable town and… the older I get it grows into more of what I want."
"Plus you’re a hop, skip, and a jump away from Austin, Houston, and Dallas. Austin is just so cool – it’s a really cool place – but I don’t want to be cool all the time. I still like to be calm and mellow, where the little lady in me is still comfortable.”
“And I love that the traffic is not bad. I think it’s funny when people complain about Waco traffic, though. I mean, seriously! I can’t fathom leaving hours before work to get there on time.”
Plan a Visit?
Furniture repair, browsing for old brass instruments, Star Wars games, unique clothes, 1960s Coke products, retro sign lettering, beautiful furniture, and so much more is just a pit stop away at LaSalle Shoppes!
Ask for a tour from the purple-haired girl and you won't be disappointed.