In 2011, Nina Gordon, a UT social work alumna who graduated in 2006, found herself exhausted at the end of each day. After a 15-year career in social work, Gordon said she needed a change to brighten her life and began searching for ways to exercise her creative side.
Now, Gordon owns Take Heart, a curated gift shop, and Kindred Spirits, a clothing shop, both located on East 11th Street. For Gordon, sharing the journey of opening her shops is one of the most important parts of owning a business.
Upon deciding to open a shop, Gordon formed a business plan and entered a competition through Big Austin, a nonprofit organization. She won the zero interest $25,000 loan.
“I always thought people who (open businesses) must have a lot of money,” Gordon said. “I really didn’t, but I figured out a way.” After borrowing from her savings and from her parents, Gordon was able to start her business. Kathleen Burke, Gordon’s mother and worker in the shop, said Gordon’s drive made her confident that she would succeed.
“As a woman who was raised in a different era, I wanted to support the woman that was going to open a business and put her vision out there,” Burke said.
Gordon’s first shop, Take Heart, opened in 2011. Gordon said the decision was unlike anything she’d done before, so she decided to name her shop after the process.
“I wanted the name to be a positive message (to) have faith, be courageous and trust because that was everything I had to do to make this change in my life,” Gordon said.
The shop’s inventory includes pottery, woodwork, hand-sewn dolls and handmade candles. Gordon said the initial idea was to sell things that spoke to her. “I hunt online a lot and look at Etsy (to find products),” Gordon said. “I go down the rabbit hole of online searches, and I travel a little bit to Arizona and New Mexico.”
As the shop continued to grow, Gordon purchased another store location on 11th Street to have more space.
“Once I moved Take Heart to the bigger location, I wasn’t sure what to do with that old location,” Gordon said.
Gordon decided to take another leap and open Kindred Spirits in the old location to start selling clothing.
“Kindred Spirits is the sister shop to Take Heart,” Gordon said. “It feels like the shops are kindred spirits in themselves.”
Based on the idea that people are all interconnected, the shop name also represents customers who come in and feel connected with each other and the store, Gordan said.
One customer, Suki Wattik, shopped at Take Heart for several years before deciding to become more involved with the store. Wattik quit her previous full-time job and, after taking some time off, began working part time for Gordon as a sales associate in 2018.
“When I’m here, I have so much care for what the products are and the shop,” Wattik said. “I treat it like it’s mine.”
Attracted by Gordon’s knowledge of the products and care when selecting them, Wattik said she loves the uniqueness of the store.
“Nina is the store,” Wattik said. “She’s very open, very giving and very compassionate. It’s a happy place to be, and the customers are incredible because they’re so excited about coming in.”