Who Are We?
Whole Earth is a specialty retailer offering a broad array of innovative, high-quality products which engage those who share our robust enthusiasm and concerned commitment to learning about, experiencing, preserving, and enjoying our home planet.
Meanwhile, here's a Virtual Tour to whet your appetite...
As the 1960s ended, Jack and Linda Jones were ready for a change. They received encouragement from two unlikely sources: a horoscope and a book. The horoscope in Vogue magazine was clear: “Quit your job and start a new project.” The message from the Whole Earth Catalog gave direction: “...we’ve been telling everyone who’s inquired politely if they could open a store - Go Ahead.”
The Whole Earth Catalog was a revolutionary publication that flourished in the 1960s into the early 1980s. 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.” The Catalog had hundreds of pages filled with short descriptions of books and tools that 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 longed for was a store where they could actually lay their hands on the books and tools they’d been reading about. Jack and Linda Jones, with the help of their friends and family, made that dream a reality by opening a retail store, Whole Earth Provision Co., based on the ideals and products found in the Whole Earth Catalog.
The first Whole Earth store opened on December 14, 1970, a block from the University of Texas campus in Austin. It was so successful that the shelves were empty ten days later. The store had an eclectic stock where shoppers could find items like “how-to” and travel books (including the Whole Earth Catalog), grain mills, massage oils, baby carriers, geodesic dome model kits, Aladdin mantle lamps and beekeeping supplies. Gradually, hiking boots and lightweight camping equipment like tents, backpacks and sleeping bags were added to the mix.
By 1973, Whole Earth needed more room and moved into a much larger store around the corner. The additional space made it possible to expand Whole Earth’s stock of clothing and shoes, and offer new items like hammocks, canoes, kayaks and water gear. The 1970s also saw the creation of Whole Earth Travel, a short-lived venture, offering travel adventures led by staff members. Destinations included backpacking trips in Hawaii, the Wind River Range in Wyoming and the Guadalupe Mountains in Texas; rafting trips on the Rio Grande and the Rio Moctezuma in Mexico; high altitude mountaineering on Mexican volcanoes and cross-country skiing trips in Colorado.
For over 40 years (view our scrapbook) Whole Earth has remained true to its ideals of providing goods that are relevant, educational and high quality and/or low cost. One more criterion has been added to the list: FUN! Toys for all ages are an important part of what makes a Whole Earth Provision Co. store a favorite with the whole family. The kayaks, grain mills and their kin of the early days are gone, but today’s stores are filled with toys and nature oriented gifts like windchimes, birdfeeders and hammocks; quality shoes; casual, travel and active clothing; travel and outdoor gear and accessories and, of course, books!
Whole Earth is also a strong supporter of groups working to preserve and restore the environment. Volunteers from the stores help clean up local rivers and parks and teach outdoor education classes for children and teens. Over the years Whole Earth has supported the Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society, Texas State Parks, Hill Country Conservancy, The Progressive Forum, Friends of Enchanted Rock and Friends of Big Bend National Park and many other non-profits large and small.
The world has changed and Whole Earth Provision Co. has changed with it. But holding fast to its founding principles, it remains a trusted source for adventure, travel and fun!