Legacy grocery and botanica in East Austin on its way to landmark status
Monday, February 12, 2024 by Kali Bramble
An East Austin grocery-turned-herbal and spiritual goods shop is on its way to securing historic zoning protections, with Historic Landmark Commissioners voting unanimously last week to punt the case to the city’s Planning Commission.
Commissioners say that Green and White Grocery, which has stood at the intersection of Waller and East Seventh streets since 1938, is an icon of a vibrant and enterprising Mexican American community that historically defined the area. Owner John Cazares Jr., whose family has owned and operated the store for 86 years, has also voiced support for the zoning change.
“The bottom line is that this place has been an institution for three generations because of the hard work and fortitude of Norverto Lopez, his family and the community that uplifted them,” said Commissioner JuanRaymon Rubio, who made the motion to recommend historic zoning. “These Latinos banded together because they had to employ themselves in a time when this was a segregated district. … These families and businesses still there, we need to continue to support them.”
Through the middle of the 20th century, founder Norverto Lopez and son-in-law John Cazares Sr. saw the store evolve into a neighborhood staple, selling produce, Mexican imports and their famed tamales, which brought crowds of patrons during the holidays. The store also became a locus of Chicano organizing in the 1970s, welcoming Latino politicians like former state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos to conduct campaign events.
After inheriting the store in 1996, owner John Cazares Jr. pivoted business models, converting the grocery into a botanica. Despite aggressive development, Cazares has weathered East Austin’s transformation, offering an eclectic selection of herbal medicines, oils, candles and other craft goods in the historic space.
With the Historic Landmark Commission’s blessing, the case will now move to the city’s Planning Commission for another round of votes. If all goes as planned, Council will be next in line to approve the zoning change, which will provide a number of protections against redevelopment as well as a property tax abatement.
Learn more about East Austin landmark initiatives through Preservation Austin’s Barrio Landmarks Project.
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