Austin-based Tito's Handmade Vodka has become such a ubiquitous vodka brand that it's almost synonymous with the spirit. Haven't you heard someone order a Tito's like you'd hear soda referred to as "Coke"? Needless to say, the brand is beloved, but there hadn’t been a dedicated space for fans to celebrate their love of Tito’s — until now.
The new Love, Tito’s retail store opens downtown on Saturday with a lounge area, a Vodka for Dog People section, Tito’s merchandise and more, according to a news release. One thing that won’t be served, sold or sipped, however, is the vodka itself. The reason for it? A Texas law.
"We worked closely with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission as we conceptualized and built out the Love, Tito’s store. Since we are not distilling vodka at the store location, we legally cannot sell or sample Tito’s on-site," Taylor Berry, Tito’s vice president of brand marketing, said.
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There’s a tiny consolation prize — a way to get you excited for your next stop in downtown Austin. In lieu of booze, Berry said, "we have created an interactive iPad bar finder that invites consumers to browse bars and restaurants in the area where they can find some great Tito’s drinks."
Like Tito’s Vodka for Dog People philanthropic initiative and the company’s namesake Love, Tito’s philosophy at large, the Love, Tito’s store has a "giving back" component. "Net proceeds of all purchases at the shop," from barware to bachelorette attire, will benefit nonprofits that Tito’s supports, according to the news release. (In a follow-up email, Tito’s defined net proceeds as "the amount we receive after items are sold, and costs for the product sold are deducted."
Best of all, customers can choose which of those organizations to donate the money to when they check out. The 2020 beneficiaries are Emancipet, James Beard Foundation, Team Rubicon and the Ocean Conservancy.
Emancipet has long been the recipient of the Vodka for Dog People program, launched at the end of 2013. Vodka for Dog People sells dog-related items, from dog leashes and toys to T-shirts, and donates the proceeds to the Austin-area organization. Emancipet offers low-cost spay, neuter and vaccination services to dogs and cats of low-income families.
In a nod to that long-running program, the Love, Tito’s store has an Instagram-ready dog photo booth. (Yes, dogs are welcome inside.) Also in the store is a lounge space with "a TV screen of trivia, photos and video content from the brand’s early days," according to the news release. Near the lounge seating is a bar area selling copper Moscow mule mugs and other bar tools — everything but the liquor itself.
Now-billionaire Bert "Tito" Beveridge founded Tito’s Vodka in the mid-1990s as Texas’ first distillery, paving the way for other distillers to open their own concepts. (Before starting the company, he famously had to prove to Texas bigwigs that there were no laws on the books outlawing distilleries. Brewpubs had already been given the OK, and wineries well before that.)
Tito’s, still solely owned by Beveridge, makes the vodka in Austin to this day, although no tours are available for the public at the distillery, and there’s no tasting room. The Love, Tito’s store is the brand’s first brick-and-mortar facility devoted just to the fans.
At the Saturday grand opening, Zilker Bark photographer Alex Hopes will be on-site to snap photos of Tito’s-loving customers and their furry friends.
Love, Tito’s is located at 215 Lavaca St. and will be open starting March 7, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit titosvodka.com.