The student news site of Houston Community College

The Egalitarian

The student news site of Houston Community College

The Egalitarian

The student news site of Houston Community College

The Egalitarian

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Ex Iron Factory Turned Hidden Gem

Ironworks located at 711 Milby st. (Photo/Kaldis Development)

Deep in the east side of downtown Houston lies a peculiar hidden gem.

When you first turn onto 711 Milby Street, you are greeted by an old iron factory nestled among other abandoned establishments. However, don’t let first impressions fool you. Inside, you’ll find various shops, restaurants, a coffee shop, and even a dispensary.

Cameron Ironworks, the original name of the building, was founded in 1920 by Harry Cameron and James Abercrombie.

Andrew Kaldis, president of Kaldis Development, purchased and redeveloped the historic land into the unique establishment that it is today, Ironworks.

The rich history of the space inspired Kaldis to work with the Texas Historical Commission to preserve as many original parts of the building as possible despite its redevelopment.

Kaldis also repurposed shipping containers to serve as various retail and eatery spaces. This allows business owners to create a personalized space for their business in areas as small as 100 square feet. Kaldis envisioned a more open concept so people could admire the building itself while still bringing attention to the businesses.

There are various shops inside Ironworks, such as vintage clothing stores, tattoo parlors, stores that sell handmade and natural products, a bakery, and even a store for pets. There are also spaces to work, study, eat, and lounge. The building features office spaces, art displays, and an outdoor patio area. Some businesses even have a balcony area on top of their shipping container.

Ironworks lounging and dining area view. (Photo/Kaldis Development.

As a regular patron of Ironworks for the past two years, I’ve seen the building grow into what it is today. I had a chance to speak with multiple business owners about their experience owning a space at Ironworks.

When you first enter the building, you’re met with a few eateries, the lounging area, as well as a CBD shop. Going further into the building, you get to the retail stores nestled in various shipping containers.

Here, “Cargo” welcomes you with its three separate stores creating an arched entrance to all the shops. This was the first store established in Ironworks. Cargo is a vintage streetwear-inspired shop, while Cargo Vintage Ladies, located above both stores, offers 50s-90s inspired clothing. Shop Local Market Space is a collaboration of various creators and artists showcasing their products ranging from various trinkets, jewelry, and stationery.

I spoke with Brooke Briseno, the manager at this location.

Brooke Briseno, manager of CARGO. She is posing in front of the store front and entrance to the shops.

“Cargo really emphasizes and sells greatly curated vintage clothes by Faith and Chris, the owners of Cargo. They’ve been in the industry since the 90s, and this is what they created.”

Briseno says that everyone in Ironworks is like a family, with the community created by the businesses and customers fostering an intimate connection.

“You’re not going to know what it is unless you come in,” she says.

Daughter of Blanca Gonzalez, owner of Nima, is posing with one of the many bags they have.

Blanca Gonzalez is the owner of Nima, a new business in Ironworks that exports handmade goods from Mexico, Peru, and Colombia.

“Nima means heart in the Zapotec language,” Gonzalez’s daughter tells me.

“We have a very personal relationship with them. We travel over there, place the order, buy it from them, and then they send it over to us.”

Julian Solis (left) and Sarah Bobby (right) tattoo artists at Technicolor Tattoo. The two are showcasing their work space with a smile on their face.

There is also a queer-owned and queer-operated tattoo studio inside called Technicolor Tattoo. I spoke to Sarah Bobby and Julian Solis, two artists who had their humble beginnings at Ironworks about three years ago, in 2021.

The two say that they aspire to create a comfortable environment and change the norms of a typical tattoo studio.

“That’s what our main goal is, to try to make our clients feel welcomed and not judged.”

Another business that has been at Ironworks since the beginning and one of my personal favorite shops in the building is Coco Select, owned and curated by Jeff Robinson and his wife.

Robinson’s curated space for guest with inspiration from his childhood.

Upon entering the store, I am greeted warmly, like family. He leads me to his upstairs area, carefully curated into his “dream man cave,” which now serves as a relaxation area for his guests. The setup reflects his childhood and aspirations, with a game console for anyone to enjoy.

Jeff Robinson, owner of Coco Select. Teaching a candle class for a lovely couple.

While sitting together and catching up, I asked Robinson how he got his start at Ironworks.

“I was doing UberEats one day, and someone in the building ordered Whataburger. I walked in and immediately forgot who I was looking for. I lost my mind, FaceTimed my wife… 10 minutes later I realized I never even delivered the Whataburger.”

He was absolutely starstruck when he first saw the building, and honestly, I was too.

Coco Select’s various assortments of handcraft and natural soaps.

Coco Select strives to create homemade, safe, and healthy products. “We are proud to serve folks with a healthier option. Everything is changing… the best way you can get around that is to control your products and control what you put in them.”

Recently, Coco Select has expanded into another shipping container where they hold candle-making classes. Robinson looks forward to all his future endeavors here in Houston and beyond.

These are only some of the many amazing businesses that reside in Ironworks. There are many establishments that host pop-ups and other events to encourage people to visit this lovely space.

From pet shops where you can host doggy birthday parties to joint coffee shops and dispensaries, there’s an endless possibility of the things you can discover. Ironworks stands as a testament to Houston’s vibrant, evolving community, blending historical preservation with modern innovation. It’s a place where history and creativity meet, making it a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the unique charm of downtown Houston.

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