Every room in Amy Simmons’ cozy Bryker Woods home looks lived in. There are no dead spaces, unused corners, or rooms that look polished but untouched. Lego sculptures alternate with paintings from friends. Vegas, the resident Akita dog, sprawls across the kitchen floor. All the living room pillows have homey indentations, hinting that yes, the family does sit here together.
Amy shares the home with her partner Steve, daughter Olivia, son Henry, and longtime caregiver Martina. She fell in love with the house because of the kitchen, a spacious, welcoming core that the rest of the rooms naturally converge into. Indeed, the kitchen is the first place Jeff, Amy, and I gather. We lean against the counters, sipping wine and discussing the ways Austin has changed until Steve and Henry come home from a soccer game.
Steve and Amy quickly kick a grilled salmon dinner into high gear with the sort of synchronicity that only comes when two people have lived and worked alongside each other for over 20 years. (He roams around the kitchen looking for the right spatula. She intuitively opens the correct drawer and hands it to him. No words are exchanged).
They’ve only been in the house a year after downsizing from their former home in Westlake and migrating away from stringent coding laws and neighborhoods with low walkability scores. (Amy wryly recalls how one Westlake neighbor built an exquisite backyard playhouse for his three daughters and then had to beg to keep it because ancillary units aren’t allowed.)
“It’s fine to have rules. Rules evolve for a reason,” says Amy as she prepares a platter of tomatoes and mozzarella at the kitchen counter. “But it’s how you enforce it with courtesy and respect for the individual.”
Amy has personal experience with the frustrating intricacies of Austin city code—she’s the owner of the eponymous Amy’s Ice Cream chain, a quirky Austin favorite. “The Amy’s location on Burnet Road is in an old gas station,” she informs Jeff and I. “We buy real estate that has some kind of history. There might be some changes, but we’re keeping an ode to the original building. At the Burnet Road location we were going to put in a playscape because we do tours for kids and wanted it to be memorable. We tore out all the concrete to put the playscape in, but they were going to charge us a $20,000 environmental impact fee because of a code that referenced ‘changes to impervious cover.’”
The “changes to impervious cover” code was intended to mean, “putting down cement,” instead of taking it out (a better environmental choice), but the unarticulated wording led to a four-month battle with the coding department.
From their stories, it’s obvious that Amy and her husband Steve have worked tirelessly to empower their employees and grow a local business that Austinites can be proud of. They’re committed to the city’s long-term future too.
“We’re all in this together. I don’t care what your politics are,” says Amy as we sit down to dinner with the family. “As long as you’re looking at both sides and you’re willing to have a conversation and face tough things. We have to be forward thinking. We have to face the problems and get them out there.”
P.S. We know you’re all wondering. Yes, Amy did have Amy’s Ice Cream in her freezer, but it wasn’t an ice cream utopia stacked with infinite cartons like we were imagining. She scooped her signature Mexican Vanilla onto the apple pie we brought and informed us that, “We actually don’t eat it that often. It’s not special if you have it all the time!”
Photography by Jasmine "Bobby" Oliver