Early Monday morning, a fire broke out in a shared space between Altatudes and her neighbor, Kane’s Barbershop.
“My business neighbor told me that our businesses were on fire because that's what he was told,” Alexander said. “The smoke was so thick, I couldn't see in my own shop.”
Altatudes closed in March because of the pandemic outbreak. But Alexander was just finalizing safety measures so the shop could reopen.
“I had already garnered a one-time use mask. I have a ton of hand sanitizer in there,” Alexander said. “I was just waiting on my thermometer.” Nelson Linder, President of the Austin Chapter of the NAACP, was at the scene. He owns an insurance business in the same shopping strip.
“This is early,” Linder said. “It could be...electrical. It could also be intentional. We don't know yet.”
An investigation into the fire is still ongoing. No one was injured, but both shops suffered significant damage.
“My shop was tremendously affected,” Alexander said. “All the items in there and all the furnishings, everything has smoked damage.”
Much of the inventory in her shop was handpicked and unique to Austin—much like the shop itself.
“Altatudes is the first and only African-American owned upscale women's boutique in Austin,” Alexander said. “I was very proud of that designation.”
Alexander opened her shop in 2017, following a childhood dream of owning an upscale store. Opting to hang her shingle in the east side of town, Altatudes was not only a reflection of her sense of style but also the neighborhood. The sunny yellow tones on the exterior of her shop are a nod to her alma mater and local historically black university, Huston-Tillotson.
Now both she and Kane’s Barbershop find themselves having to rebuild at a time when businesses everywhere are having to innovate to get by. But neighbors have already begun to pitch in, starting a GoFundMe page for Altatudes and Kane’s Barbershop that in just a few short days has already surpassed its fundraising goal.
Between the support of her neighbors and her own drive, Alexander fully expects to reopen soon.
“I'm going to stand strong and I'm gonna rock it until the wheels fall off,” Alexander said. “I'm gonna try my best to come back.”
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