Just how hip is Rockport? To find out we spoke with Rockport resident, business owner, and the woman with her finger on the pulse of downtown, Hannah Morgan Miller. Not only is Hannah a third generation Rockport rancher, but she moved away for college, had a corporate career, and then came home to help Rockport grow and become the hippest little place on the Texas Coast. With a master’s degree in agricultural communications, and years of experience as a digital strategist, Hannah is THE brand and business development expert in the area. Here’s the scoop from Hannah:
Rockport has long been known as an art colony with over 200 local resident artists, and Coastal Living Magazine calls it a “Top Ten Coastal Art Community.” The Rockport Cultural Arts District, whose mission it is to promote Rockport’s unique reputation as an artistic community works hand in hand with Rockport Center for the Arts, an organization that “promotes cultural enrichment and art education in the community, especially cultural tourism and seeks to establish Rockport and vicinity as a major art destination for visitors.” From their new $8.7 million location currently under construction at 106 South Austin Street, they will host exhibits, classes, special events, educational workshops, theater, musical performances, and culinary classes.
Some of their major events are the Studio Arts Tour every spring where you can see the artists in their creative space showcasing their wares. Try glass blowing with Doc Roberts, watch artists at work, or visit artist Steve Russell’s barn studio. Russell is a violin playing, rabbit-raising, local artist who will soon unveil Conquistador and native family water sculptures in the Rockport Harbor. You can also see his stunning watercolor mural of a shrimp boat in the cultural arts district along the Austin street corridor, where buildings are graced with local artist’s murals like the River’s Memory and Anne Winkler’s Crab Claws on the side of Strand Hair Design. There is also Art Fair by the Bay, plus the Rockport Art Festival every summer. Check out the Sculpture Garden with
works by Kent Ullberg, James Surls and more.
Hannah’s favorite sculpture, a twisted pink, free form metal piece, sits by the beach in front of her favorite gallery and restaurant, Latitudes 28° 02’. Here, at 105 North Austin Street, during happy hour Chef Craig and his wife Ramona, serve up the world’s best cucumber martinis, and crab chalupas in a funky space that is a rotating gallery of local artwork. Hannah also likes the Wind Way Studio Gallery, and the Oh My Gallery.
As for restaurants, in addition to Latitudes, on Tuesday nights Hannah loves Poor Man’s Country Club, a rustic Bayside bar and grill. She also raves about the baked brie they serve at The Groove,
and she likes to sit on the back deck where fairy lights and live music provide a cool vibe. 495 Chesapeake Eats is a Maryland cuisine and craft cocktail spot where they cook their southern seafood in a northern style, and their whiskey bar is always hopping. Check out their happy hour Tuesday to Friday from 5:00-6:30.
Of course, no hip town is hip without its coffee bars and Rockport boasts five of them, including the Rockport Coffee Company and Quirky Birds Coffee Bar. But Hannah says there’s a need for a coffee business that stays open past 3 pm and transitions into a wine bar, maybe featuring acoustic music. Any entrepreneurs out there better hurry before Hannah opens this business herself.
The bar scene is alive and well too, with patio seating and karaoke at the Sugar Shack in Fulton and the new Rock Bottom Park and Pub at 507 South Austin Street, with live music and craft brews. The Paradise Key Dockside Bar and Grill is a happening place, as is Glow, a coastal market, seafood kitchen, and cocktail porch overlooking the Bay. They serve awesome fresh and gourmet fare food and you can play cornhole on their lawn.
There are shopping opportunities galore in Rockport, and we asked Hannah for some of her favorite retail spots. She mentions Coastal Mercantile where they sell the latest in home décor and bedding, plus cookbooks, stationery, colored Adirondack chairs, flamingo pillows, cast iron oyster bowls, and Annie Sloan chalk paint. If you need to decorate your beach house or buy a gift, this
is your spot. You can even enjoy wine and cheese boards as you shop; it’s where hip wine bar meets interior design. Coastal Mercantile is in the old Estelle Gallery historic building at 406 South Austin Street.
Check out Songbird Chic: Décor for Your Nest at 415 South Austin Street. Some of the items they feature are gorgeous, refinished furniture, homewares, goats milk personal care products, and handmade cards. Hannah particularly likes their scented candles and mini succulent gardens.
Another exciting addition to Rockport is Hannah, her mother, and sister ’s Going Coastal Outfitters, a successful tee shirt boutique and beach emporium with an ice cream and snow cone bar in the back. They began as a pop up shop at local markets, SeaFair, and Oysterfest and were so successful, they moved to their permanent location at 103 South Austin Street.
The custom tees are all designed by Hannah’s sister, Abby, who was responsible for the original Rockport Strong shirt design. They also sell beachy cups, stickers, and magnets. You can get excited now because they are also opening another business right at Rockport Beach, dedicated to beach towels, beach toys, sunscreen, etc., and it’s the first of some exciting new retail opportunities and food trucks on the waterfront.
Hannah also owns a farm to table ranch called Third Coast Beef, and you didn’t hear it from us, but you can buy her meat from the freezer in the back of Goin’ Coastal. A lifelong interest in agriculture and a conservationist at heart, Hannah raises her cattle with no growth hormones, no antibiotics, non-GMO feed, and homemade supplements. Though not certified organic, her meat is fresh and healthy.
Another brand new establishment that opens soon is Lady Captain Coastal Wear at 1819 Broadway, a hip new woman’s fashion store with resort and coastal wear.
Another unique retail establishment in Rockport Hannah cites is the newly opened “Fly Trap” at 1833 North Broadway. This is an angling shop where you can sit down with Fly-fishing legends, create and tie your own flies, take equipment to the nearby pier for a “test drive” and buy saltwater fly-fishing’s best tackle, clothing, technical gear, and gifts.
In case you weren’t getting just how hip Rockport really is, note that since 2007 they have had their own Film Festival. During the second week of November, the festival brings the best of independent cinema to town and proceeds go to support the local Rotary Club. Hannah remembers a moving documentary she watched there called Seadrift, that examines the cultural and economic strife between the Klan and the newly arrived Vietnamese community that began shrimping and crabbing in an industry considered proprietary by the local white fishermen. The Festival accepts submission in six different film categories, opens with a red carpet party and runs for four days straight.
We asked Hannah to tell us some of her favorite things to do in Rockport, and here is what she had to say:
Take an airboat ride with Michael Ferri (@361.790.4404) and get up close and personal in the shallows of the intracoastal waterway with whooping cranes, and falcons. Another airboat operator is Greg Hodson (207.756.0432) with Heads or Tails Guide Service. For regular boating, rent Captain Tommy Moore’s party boat, ‘The Skimmer,’ for a happy hour get together with friends.
Go dolphin watching in Aransas Bay, getting up close and personal with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins as they feed behind the local shrimp fleet. Contact Rockport Birding & Kayak Adventures at 215 North Fulton Beach Rd. 877-892-4737 for details.
The Annual Rockport Crawfish Cook Off and Tasting is another of Hannah’s favorite activities. Besides all you can eat crawfish, there is live music, a carnival, a beer garden, and an oyster bar.
Check out the Chamber of Commerce for details.
Hannah grew up in the Lamar area of Rockport and highlights this neighborhood as a special spot to enjoy nature and Texas wildlife. She loves to use the Aransas Pathways extensive hike and bike trails for stunning scenery and great exercise, and she enjoys the boat ramps at St. Charles Bay and Goose Island State Park.
Hannah can’t say enough about her hometown and the endless entertainment options it affords, and its natural beauty, and this is in addition to its on-trend businesses and galleries, its small town art colony vibe, and its authentic hip coastal personality. For all this and more, you should get on down to Rockport and see what all the fuss is about!