“I tried to echo the city’s aesthetic while also channeling my own personal, sort of minimalist style.”
“This is a series that reflects on the rose window,” she says, indicating her earrings clearly designed with San Antonio flair. “I tried to echo the city’s aesthetic while also channeling my own personal, sort of minimalist style.” Brandi Garcia designs and makes all the jewelry found at her quaint shop behind the Little Church of La Villita. B-Link Designs has an accessible yet elegant feel that breathes something new into the historic arts village. This summer will mark one year for the business in its newest location.
Handmade jewelry by Brandy Garcia sits on display at B-Link Designs in La Villita. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Brandy Garcia is not what many would consider a stereotypical designer. She pursued an architectural engineering degree at UT Austin. In her junior year she switched to philosophy, a discipline that similarly relies on math and logic. It was here that she began practicing with her roommates’ sewing machine. Dissatisfied with the selection of jewelry available to her, Brandy took action and began to learn the process of creating her own pieces.
When she returned to San Antonio, her hometown, she began utilizing space at Hausmann Millworks near Woodlawn Avenue. “It’s a really cool creative community. They’re painters, woodworkers, metalworkers, all kinds of stuff.” She explains. It was here she honed the skills to forge her own work out of anything from fine silver to brass. Bubbling over with passion and energy, it isn’t hard to picture her working with molten metal one day and running the shop floor the next. Though she has expanded her business to a historic arts village, she still refuses to be identified as an artist. “I don’t really see myself as an artist so much as a designer. A lot of people will comment that I’m an artist and I’ve never really been comfortable with it for some reason.”
Handmade necklaces by Brandy Garcia at B-Link Designs at La Villita. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
So why is she doing business downtown? A little history might help. “I’m a sixth generation Texan and a fifth generation San Antonian. Two of my Great-Grandmas were born on the west side. I have a great-great grandfather that was born here too,” She recounts. This kind of long lineage is common in San Antonio, she explains, but is actually uncommon in other cities. Having deep family roots here has made her comfortable and confident in her business ventures as well as made her knowledgeable about the area. “My mom worked for SAPD for thirty years. Back in the 80s if she didn’t have a sitter, she’d just take us to the station. And we would hang out in the break room for eight hours. This was back when it was okay to do that.” She laughs. Downtown quickly became her playground. And in high school when her future husband’s band would play in downtown venues, she was the only one in her group of friends that was comfortable navigating the streets.
In the years since, she has used her knowledge of the area to do business downtown. “There are a lot more tourists in this area, which is awesome because they are looking for things that are local and looking to meet people who are local.” She says, describing the advantages of her new location. “I try to spark a conversation with everyone who comes in here. It leaves an impression if I know the area where they’re from. I think it’s things like that that show them that San Antonians are friendly. I want to be a good ambassador for the city.”
Brandy Garcia is seen standing behind the counter as she greets customers. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Her ambassador work doesn’t end with B-Link either. She and her husband have another venture that began as an idea a few years ago. After leading Segway tours, Brandy’s husband Matt would recommend people to different Hill Country wine tour companies. When he saw them later, he found that more often than not the tours had been cancelled due to low turnout. Matt brought it up to Brandy. “So he asks me ‘Is there anyone in San Antonio that operate the wine tours like they do in San Francisco where they pick you up in the city, take you out and bring you back?’ I told him there weren’t any,” she explains. “So he’s like ‘Well why don’t we do that?’ And I said why don’t we do that? That’s a great idea!” Within eight months Cottonwood Wine Tours was born. And four years later the tours are going strong with even the family pitching in to help. Brandy’s mom as well as Matt’s father help on tours, and her father helps at the shop. The fact that it’s a business run by a San Antonio family matters a lot to Brandy and her customers. “Since all of us our local San Antonians, our tours aren’t just booze cruises. We incorporate a lot of history, a lot of education about wine and about the area. A lot of people appreciate that we’re locals.”
Villita Street in downtown San Antonio. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“You’re going to find the warmest of Texans with the most multi-cultural backgrounds here.”
And as a local, Brandy has made a point of taking ownership of downtown. “It shouldn’t just belong to tourists. It should belong to us as well,” she asserts, “You’re going to find the warmest of Texans with the most multi-cultural backgrounds here.” People are already taking Brandy up on her invitation. “I’m happy with the way things are going downtown. I think it’s going to draw more people. Young professional transplants for example. They’re actually working and living downtown.” As for Brandy, she’s found her spot in a downtown that has a place for everyone. “When my husband and I moved back we bought a house near Woodlawn just northwest of downtown. We didn’t want to live far out. We wanted to be closer to the city. And we’ve been in that home ever since.”