Whole Foods shows love for its hometown with new ‘atx’ sculpture

The ‘atx’ sculpture is in front of the downtown Austin Whole Foods store.

Next time you head to the flagship Whole Foods Market store in downtown Austin, keep an eye out for something new.

The homegrown retailer has installed a new piece of public art – a unique twist on the familiar “atx” shorthand many Austinites use to refer to their hometown – in a prominent spot out front at West Fifth Street and North Lamar Boulevard.

“About a year ago, we decided it was time to replace our logo here on the corner of our flagship Whole Foods Market store,” said Mark Dixon, regional president for Whole Foods’ Southwest region. “As we began brainstorming, we thought, this is such a visible spot for the city of Austin, we should do something that the community can enjoy.”

Dixon said it took about six months to come up with the concept and design for the grocer’s newest piece of public art.

The sculpture comes from Ion Art, the same company that made the neon sign for the very first Whole Foods store back in 1991.

“Our relationship with Whole Foods goes back 26 years,” Ion Art owner Greg Keshishian said. “In the ’90s, Whole Foods began opening dozens of stores…it was during that time of Ion Art’s history that we stopped starving and this vital relationship with Whole Foods enabled us to grow.”

Today, Ion Art has almost 50 employees, Keshishian said.

“Whole Foods employs tens of thousands of individuals and I wonder how many other small companies like Ion Art got their first break through Whole Foods and just how many others became gainfully employed as a result,” he said.

Already, Whole Foods says the sculpture has become a hit, with many people – shoppers and non-shoppers – stopping by for photos.

“We never imagined the reaction from the Austin community,” said Laura Zappi, executive marketing coordinator for Whole Foods’ Southwest region.

This 1991 photo shows the original neon sign Ion Arts made for Whole Foods.

Women dress as ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ characters to protest anti-abortion legislation at Texas Capitol

Women dressed in long, red robes and white bonnets protested anti-abortion legislation at the Texas Capitol on Monday.

The women were dressed like character’s from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which depicts a world where women have been stripped of their rights. In the book, some of the women, called “handmaids,” are forced to bear children against their will. This includes the book’s protagonist, Offred. According to NPR, sales of the book, first published in 1985, have soared since President Donald Trump took office.

Pictures of the protesters were posted on Twitter along with the hashtag #FightBackTX.

READ: 2 abortion bills advance in Senate

The women were present when the Texas Senate gave final approval Monday to a bill that would “ban a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure,” known as dilation and evacuation, according to the Associated Press. State troopers and Senate officials reportedly pulled down signs the women were holding and escorted them out.


Women in similar garb were spotted roaming the streets of downtown Austin during last week’s SXSW conference as promotion for Hulu’s new show based on the novel.

READ: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is making SXSW 100 percent more unsettling

Austin to get first ping pong bar

Goodbye fighting for the one ping pong table at a bar.

via SPiN

At Susan Sarandon’s new Austin bar SPiN, you’d be hard pressed to find a table you can’t play ping pong on. According to CultureMap Austin, the 5th Street spot formerly home to Antone’s will open this fall as the seventh location of ping pong bar chain SPiN.

SPiN will have 14 table available for play and a virtual reality program where patrons can play competitors from different cities. The location will reportedly be large enough for 500 guests. It will also have a menu featuring sliders, milkshakes and flatbread pizza, and cocktails and beer.

“We chose Austin because it was important to expand to a city that had a rich music, art, and culinary scene along with an entrepreneurial and tech community that would embrace the SPiN experience,” SPiN CEO Pieter Vanermen said in a press release.

Get your partners and your paddles ready, Austin …

Where to drink and what to drink there in Austin

New ABC News documentary chronicles an Austin Skee-Baller’s path to glory

It was a sports heartbreaker for the ages. After only five years playing the sport, Austin’s Roy “Brewbacca” Hinojosa had made it to four Skee-Ball tournaments through his Austin Brewskee-Ball League.

The 33-year-old library administrator first started paying the game with his wife in 2009 as a way to meet people in Austin. His nickname comes from his penchant for pounding brewskis while rolling Skees.

Skee-Ball champion Roy “Brewbacca” Hinojosa wearing his cream-colored jacket and kissing his trophy in Austin, Texas. (David Fazekas/ABC News)

At the first tournament he went to, in 2010, he didn’t get far.

In 2011, he lost in the first round.

In 2012, he made it to the Final Four, but didn’t go all the way.

In 2013, at the Brewskee-Ball National Championship (commonly referred to as the “BEEBs”) in Austin, it was down to him and a Skee-Ball roller from New York named Jon “Snakes on a Lane” Ciuffreda. Hinojosa needed about 400 more points to win the trophy and the league’s cream-colored sports jacket. He thought he had what it took. The scoreboard even read in his favor.

But a glitch in the Skee-Ball machine caused Hinojosa’s score to be tallied incorrectly.

“I hear that the lane malfunctioned and scored higher than I actually rolled,” Hinojosa told ABC News. “These machines are old. They’re not in the best condition. I hit it really hard. Sometimes when you do that, it double clutches and the score changes. Instead of registering as a 100, it registers at 150.”

After that 2013 tournament, Hinojosa worked on his Skee-Ball game. He went to the 2014 and 2015 BEEBs but didn’t make it to the finals.

His luck changed in 2016 in North Carolina, where he once again faced off against Jon “Snakes on a Lane” Ciuffreda for the championship. This time, Hinojosa won without question.

“The idea that you’re the best at something, no one can take that away from me.”

“Brewbacca and the Quest for the Cream-Colored Jacket,” a new mini-documentary from ABC News, chronicles Hinojosa’s rise to the top of America’s Skee-Ball scene.

“I tell people that I’m a national champion in Skee-Ball, and they’re like, ‘What..How?'” he jokes in the video.

For now, Hinojosa says he plans to defend his title in Austin’s Brewskee-Ball League. But he told ABC News he’s more thankful for the friends and relationships he’s made through the sport.

“I wouldn’t know what we would have done without Skee-Ball to be honest.”

Watch the full documentary below.

ABC Breaking News

Bill proposes crowdfunding to fix Texas’ rape kit backlog

A Democratic lawmaker from Dallas has proposed that Texas turn to crowdfunding to help address its backlog of untested rape kits.


State Representative Victoria Neave introduced a bill, which had its first public hearing Monday, that would give Texas citizens the option of donating $1 or more when they renew their driver licenses to go toward testing the rape kits. According to the New York Times, testing a rape kit can cost between $1,000 and $1,5000.

The paper reports that donations would generate approximately $1 million a year, based on a similar tactic previously used to collect money for veterans. Administrative deductions would leave about $800,000 to supplement the budget now in place for testing.

Although the New York Times reports that Texas is not alone in battling a rape kit backlog, the paper says crowdfunding as a state law is a new tactic.

A final vote on the bill will be made before the end of the legislative session in May.

At a local level, Austin has experienced its share of DNA testing woes, including a mismanaged lab, a growing backlog of untested kits and a broken freezer.

READ: 2,200 convicted persons to be notified of Austin DNA lab problems

Surprise! The El Arroyo sign’s got Ides of March jokes


It’s March 15, otherwise known as the Ides of March. That’s the day Roman emperor Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by his own senators and son-in-law Marcus Brutus in 44 B.C.

From Flickr user Hilverd Reker.

(It’s also the title of an excellent 2011 film about an idealistic presidential campaign staffer and the governor he works for starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney.)

The phrase was popularized in William Shakespeare’s titular play about Caesar: “Beware the Ides of March.”

It was a day full of conspiracy, betrayal and knives (and indeed, bad stuff seems to continue to happen on March 15), but everyone’s favorite Austin taco restaurant sign has a lighter take on the day famous for conspiratorial bloodshed.

Et tu, El Arroyo?


What do Texans search for on St. Patrick’s Day?

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day — but what’s the holiday really all about? According to Texans’ Google searches: green beer.

3/17/13 Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman

Highspeedinternet.com analyzed search data across the U.S. and found what each state is searching in relation to everyone’s favorite day to don green. You might not be surprised to hear, with Texas it’s all about the green beer. The only other state to share the same search was West Virginia.

WHERE: Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Austin

Other popular searches include, “how to cook cabbage,” “bars near me” and “Irish people” (this one was popular in Massachusetts, which reportedly has the largest Irish population in the country). Hawaiians were all about “Guiness,” while Alaskans search for “pub crawls.”

Most of the searches can be categorized within three groups: booze, food and basketball. Good to know what the holiday’s all about…

Could Texas vehicle inspections become a thing of the past?

What is a year without forgetting and then remembering and then having to have your car inspected?


A Dallas lawmaker, however, wants Texas to join the 34 other states that don’t require an annual vehicle inspection of their residents, the Houston Chronicle reports. Senate Bill 1588 would completely eliminate regular mandatory vehicle inspections, during which a car’s braking, mirrors and signals are tested and emissions are measured.

The author of the bill, Republican Sen. Don Huffines, said that getting rid of inspections would initially lose the state $150 million, but would also qualify Texas residents for a certain type of tax cut. A press release issued by Huffines reads:

“With significant technological advances in vehicle design and technology, this 66-year-old program is a relic of the past. State government is wasting Texans’ time & money on the annual chore of passenger inspections when 34 other states, including populous states like California, don’t require it of their drivers. Once you realize that these inspections aren’t about safety, it’s clear that they’re simply a tax on Texans’ time and money.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Skipping out on inspection sticker costs you, Texas

PHOTOS: Seeing what there is to see at SXSW

Kaya Pino of Toronto relaxes on a balcony at the Austin Convention Center during South by Southwest on Friday March 10, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

South by Southwest has plenty to do, eat and listen to. But some of the best things the conference has to offer are all the sights — especially those you stumble upon unexpectedly. Your Instagram posts weren’t for nothing. We see you. And we see what you see.

Check out what SXSW is looking like so far:

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CNN Bungalow at SXSW

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#natgeo #sxswinteractive #sxsw explore more

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For more pictures out of the conference flip through today’s gallery here.

All the unofficial SXSW parties you’ll officially want to go to

Austinites can alert city to dangerous roads via new crowd-sourced map

Austinites can now tell city officials on an edit-able map which areas are dangerous for drivers or pedestrians and bicyclists. Graphic courtesy of the City of Austin.

A website is now live that Austin officials say makes it quick and easy to alert the city about streets that need to be safer.

City officials said they are particularly interested in what pedestrians have to say over the next couple of weeks.

Austinites can select their mode of travel (walking, bicycling, riding a motorcycle, driving a car, or using an assistive device such as a wheelchair), choose from a drop-down list of concerns, and add additional details. They will immediately see their dot appear on the map, among the others that people have placed.

With all the notes that people have already placed, the map can be a bit daunting, but it’s fairly user-friendly once you zoom in on the streets you’re interested in.

This map is for planning efforts only, city officials said. People should call 3-1-1 to identify pressing safety concerns that need immediate attention.