An Ad Agency Designed This Crazy Cool Flagship Store in Austin for Yeti Coolers

McGarrah Jessee's creation is part shrine, part backwater bait shop

Headshot of Angela Natividad

Yeti is among the few brands that, even without a store, has cultivated a passionate community around an otherwise innocuous product—coolers.

So, what more can its first flagship store bring to the conversation?

Austinites found out Feb. 23, when it opened its doors at 220 South Congress Ave. Built in the 1930s, the building has survived some of the worst floods of the 20th century. One of the things you’ll find in Yeti’s flagship is a flood line, reproduced as a line of rust along steel, to remind people “just how wild the wild can get.”

That theme permeates the rest of the atmosphere, brought to life by Austin agency McGarrah Jessee (of zealous 100th employee fame). The shop pitched against traditional retail design and architectural firms, ultimately to produce something it calls “part shrine, part museum, part backwater bait shop.”

Below, the story of the project:

Sharks hang suspended above you, and the open bed of a pickup invites you to sit in it. This is more than just a product space; it’s one where aficionados can hang out, and unwitting newbies get a complete sense of what Yeti’s all about.

The exterior is an instant invitation: It hosts a bar where people can grab a cold drink before heading inside. Design features include a giant Yeti Rambler Tumbler, sliced in half to display thermoses; a stage mounted on coolers; iron welded hangers; local reclaimed wood; a faded Coors rodeo barrel; and a giant bottlecap wall made with Texas brand beverages.

Everything was kept as local to Texas as possible, but it also has delightful historic features, which appear in the promos for the new location.

Below, check out the barbecue pit that belonged to restauranteur Aaron Franklin. And yes, that’s also his butcher paper.

The next ad showcases the first-ever fishing skiff able to cross the shallows of the Florida Everglades, created by Flip Pallot.

Custom neons by Evan Voyles round out the cooler-mounted stage, where you can listen to live music or hear a pro talk tackle. (We’re guessing. We actually have no idea what outside people talk about.)

A final ad simply teases the space itself—all 8,000 square feet of it, which Yeti hopes will serve as much as a community event space as a retail outfit.

The result is a whole lot more than a physical platform for a $350 cooler; it’s a place you might actually want to show up in if you’re walking through downtown Austin, one where your fantasies about a weekend in the wild become that much more real.

Ahead of the grand opening, the store was promoted with billboards that served as wicked winks to fans in the know, including a direct play on a suburban lipo shop, whose billboards happen to be everywhere:

Other ads are just as cheeky, taking shots at fancy places where flagships normally open, or featuring a bear, which you can actually meet (in taxidermied form) in the store.

Even its delivery vans got the ad land treatment!

Asked whether the store met expectations, McGarrah Jessee wrote, “If the measure of success was the number of people sitting at the patio bar, drinking micheladas, watching Nascar, shooting the shit, then yes.”

Sounds like a pretty good metric to us. See a ton more photos of the store’s interior here. And to see how the store came to life, check out the timelapse below.

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.