AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s back-to-school season throughout Central Texas, and Austinites might see some colorful new displays welcoming students back to school.
Kimmie Klein originally opened Austin Yard Cards in 2014 as a way to put a more unique flair on birthdays, graduations and other celebratory occasions. Last year, Liz Merkel took over the business for Klein, a friend of hers from their neighborhood.
Despite the business being nearly a decade old, Merkel remembered the surge in interest at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. She said it served as a great opportunity to share love for friends, family or other community members when in-person gatherings were more limited.
“For a little short while, it was kind of the best we could do to make sure everyone still felt loved and celebrated,” she said. “It was nice to be able to have that during that time.”
While there was a downturn in sales and interest in late 2021, Merkel said the appetite for yard displays has grown since an initial COVID-19-era boom. Austin ISD welcomed some of its own students back for the 2023-24 school year last week, leaning into the yard card trend.
“It is coming back, and people are still really enjoying the cards because it’s always a nice way to even do it for your own kiddo or send it as a gift to a friend,” Merkel said.
Traditionally, Merkel said back-to-school and graduation seasons are some of the busiest for Austin Yard Cards. However, she added holidays, birthdays, marriages and honeymoons are all popular options.
One challenge the business has navigated in recent months, Merkel said, is the ongoing drought and the impacts it has had on Central Texas yards and properties. Ideally, she said the business prefers a “nice, soft, dirt-filled yard with green grass.”
Instead, many properties throughout the region are dealing with dried-up, yellowing yards. As a result, Merkel said the company has collaborated with school parent-teacher associations, along with pivoting to indoor displays to help people still celebrate their loved ones.
Despite those logistical hurdles, Merkel said the joy of hearing from customers about the excitement and thrills they experience seeing the yard displays appear.
“[My favorite moments are] the little kids who wake up in the morning and see it as a surprise, and then poof, it’s gone the next day,” she said. “It’s just like a magic fairy came in to wish them a happy birthday.”