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Vending machine at SXSW sells items from old Austin places lost to gentrification

"We wanted to have a vending machine with relics of places that no longer exist as a reminder of what's been lost," the executive director for E4 Youth said.

AUSTIN, Texas — A vending machine has been set up at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival that sells items from old Austin staples that have been lost to gentrification.

The “LostIn” vending machine is up throughout the event, inside the Paramount and State Theaters.

It’s part of a project from Texas nonprofit E4 Youth to spotlight issues of gentrification in Austin and around the country.

The organization said you’ll be able to buy a comb or brush from the historic Black Dollhouse Barbershop where Bubba Steart cut neighborhood fades for 40 years; a scented air freshener from Leal’s Tires ran by Domingo Lamas Leal for years; a vintage T-shirt from Victory Grill, which was central to the Austin blues and jazz scene for decades; a piñata from Jumpolin; or a popcorn-scented candle from Harlem Theater, which was one of only seven Black-owned theaters in the U.S. until it closed in 1973.

“So many businesses, particularly minority-owned institutions, have been lost in Austin, and gentrification is such a force for the kids we work with, we wanted to have a vending machine with relics of places that no longer exist as a reminder of what’s been lost,” said Carl Settles, executive director for E4 Youth.

E4 Youth is a Texas nonprofit that works with underserved kids in the state to help preserve the state's history.

Settles said he believes teaching college-aged students digital skills can help tackle the gentrification problem locally and across the U.S.

The vending machine is part of the nonprofit’s “What Once Was” initiative, which aims to create opportunities for youth through technology.

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