March 17, 2021 716 PM
MARFA — After a lifetime of helping other businesses succeed, Julie Bernal has opened her own shop in Marfa called B-Sides. Initially moving from Austin to Marfa in 2012 to manage Padre’s, Bernal later purchased a small commercially-zoned compound next to the present-day Water Stop restaurant, where it first served as two short-term rentals. Later, Bernal reduced this to one rental and moved into the other unit.
“When I first looked at it, I thought about the different possibilities for the space,” says Bernal, adding that her original intention was to just live there. The previous owner had connected different structures, and Bernal had heard different stories about the former businesses housed there, including a pizza parlor, beauty shop and photography studio.
Bernal has a business degree from the University of Texas at Austin and has always thought about what kind of business would be good in Marfa. “Since I moved here nine years ago, I’m always thinking, what does Marfa need?”
Still, Bernal never thought she’d have a shop in Marfa. “It was this amazing alignment of all these different things coming together.”
Bernal had closed her short-term rental because of COVID-19, and her long-term gig at Marfa Public Radio hosting the afternoon show All Things Considered was coming to an end. “I thought, well I could go back to doing Airbnb. I didn’t really want to, I didn’t know where else I could work, especially with things shut down.”
Bernal then got an opportunity to buy the complete inventory from a vintage clothing store in Alpine that had recently closed. She thought she might just have a patio store, hosting occasional pop-ups, but “the more I thought about it, the more ideas I got.”
It was important for Bernal to do something that would serve the community, so she decided that the shop would be a buy/sell/trade operation for both clothing and vinyl. She also offers what she calls a “trade-it-forward” program, where people can donate their clothes and Bernal will take the trade amount (50% of her retail) and have it on hand for someone who needs it.
“If someone donated their clothes to this shop and not the local thrift store, I think it’s possible that their donation could go further,” and the trade-it-forward program could provide clothing for “someone who is starting a new job or even a high school girl who needs a prom dress.” She also offers a 15% discount to full time residents.
Bernal is interested in the growing secondhand retail market as an alternative to fast fashion, and she’s hoping that her business will encourage people to clean out their closets. “I’m learning to let go of stuff; this has been really good for me in that way.”
Lovers of vinyl also have a place to buy, sell and trade records and 45s at B-Sides. Bernal has been a volunteer DJ at the radio station for the past six years, and currently hosts the music programs Old’s Cool and The Oldies Show. She is an avid collector of 45s, with roughly 2200 in her collection presently.
Besides clothing and vinyl, B-Sides sells affordable art, and Bernal currently has works from local sign painter Carolyn Macartney and local photographer Lesley Villareal, as well as Austin muralist Kerry Awn. There are also plans to utilize the outdoor patio space in the future. “I’m hoping that the patio becomes a gathering space. Now our gathering spaces are bars, and you have to buy something. I just want to offer an alternative.” Her thought is to host a Friday afternoon tea, and she currently offers complimentary beverages to her shoppers.
The name “B-Sides” has multiple meanings. The shop is located in unit B of Bernal’s duplex, and her DJ name is Julie B. But it’s also an alternative to the pricier stores in town. Besides the other retail stores, there’s B-Sides. Her clothing is priced between $8 to $30, the vinyl ranges from $4 to $30, and 45s range from $2 to $10. The art for sale is priced from $65 to $350.
Bernal opened B-Sides almost two weeks ago, and so far, business has been great. “Because of the pandemic, I feel like people dug in and found their style. It’s fun watching people choose the thing that speaks to them.”
B-Sides is currently open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 1306 W. San Antonio Street, unit B.