The 1960s and 70s were a time for questioning and confronting the assumptions, ethics, politics and direction of the preceding generation, a time of growing ecological awareness, and of people looking for alternative ways of making a living. Jack and Linda began discussing with their friends the possibility of starting a store based on the philosophy and concepts of the recently published Whole Earth Catalog.
The Whole Earth Catalog was a revolutionary publication that flourished in the 1960s into the early 1980s. Steve Jobs described it as “Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along.” The Catalog encouraged “individuals to conduct their own education, find their own inspiration, shape their own environment and share the adventure with whoever is interested.” Composed of hundreds of pages filled with short descriptions of books and tools, it presented an encyclopedic view of the world and how it worked from the microscopic to the galactic.
For an item to be included in the Catalog, it had to meet four criteria: useful as a tool, relevant to independent education, high quality and/or low cost and easily available by mail. But what the Catalog’s readers really wanted was a store where they could browse the books and handle the tools they’d been reading about. Jack and Linda, with the help of their friends, family and four early part time partners made that dream a reality by opening a store, Whole Earth Provision Co., based on the ideals and products found in the Whole Earth Catalog.
Within a matter of months, Jack and Linda returned to Austin, found a space in Bluebonnet Plaza on 24th Street near the University of Texas campus, brought in supplies and merchandise and opened the first Whole Earth store. The original inventory included flour mills, oil lamps, massage oils, camp soap (bottled and supplied by Jack’s brother Joe) and lots of how-to books – titles selected from the Whole Earth Catalog. The store was an overnight success, selling out of merchandise in the first two weeks, necessitating the closing of the store to reorder and restock.
The Nomadics section of the Whole Earth Catalog encouraged readers to get out and explore the world and offered advice on gear for hiking, camping, mountaineering and backpacking, as well as wilderness survival skills. Whole Earth quickly added outdoor gear to the mix of merchandise. The store became an early source for new, specially designed backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, hiking boots, rugged clothing and other gear being created by new, small independent companies like The North Face and Patagonia to meet the demand for high tech outdoor adventure clothing and equipment. Whole Earth continues to be a leader in supplying gear, clothing and shoes for outdoor adventure and travel, outfitting generations of Texans for travel into remote corners of the world.
Whole Earth Provision Co. strives to offer clothing, footwear and gear of all kinds that complement and enhance your life at home, work, and school, on the trail, and traveling near and far. Our almost 50 years in business shows in our stores and online. You’ll find our merchandise is carefully chosen with quality, practicality and innovation in mind, based on our many years of experience using and selling iconic and classic brands, as well as introducing new brands and items worthy of your attention.
Whole Earth is a family owned business based in Texas with seven stores in four cities: Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Our stores are filled with exciting and eclectic merchandise displayed in a fun, laid back environment with our knowledgeable and friendly sales staff at hand ready to offer information or advice should you need it. A Whole Earth store is much more than just a shopping destination, it’s a fun experience. Over the years Whole Earth has supported Texas State Parks, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Texas, Hill Country Conservancy, Friends of Enchanted Rock, Big Bend Conservancy and many other non-profits large and small working to preserve and restore the environment. You may know us from Texas State Park Month, the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, Earth Day celebrations, Chaco Gives Back, and climbing competitions like the Granite Gripper. Other events we’ve sponsored were one-time responses to natural disasters like fund drives for the Houston Food Bank in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the Oxfam Nepal Recovery Fund Drive after the devastating earthquakes of 2015.
Our earlier product mix has expanded to the point where we are sometimes hard- pressed to define what Whole Earth is to the public. The best camping and backpacking equipment store? A store with an unusual mix of technical and casual clothing and footwear? A great gift, toy store? A store with a sense of humor? Today’s Whole Earth Provision Co. has come a long way since its early Austin/Whole Earth Catalog beginnings, but some things remain the same. We’re still on the lookout for the best clothing, shoes and gear for our customers.
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