by Suzanne Labry
Hub Cap Annie—
A Quilter’s Story
Hub Cap AnnieQuilts and hubcaps are two words that you don’t often see together in the same sentence. For Barbara Jean Sanders, however, the two things were part and parcel of her life.
Barbara was a quilter, but for almost three decades she was also the proprietor of an iconic Austin, Texas-based business called Hub Cap Annie, specializing in new and vintage hubcaps, wheels, wheel covers, center caps, and trim rings. Barbara passed away not long ago, but her story remains that of a fun-loving, free-spirited entrepreneur who brightened the world around her, whether with fabric or chrome.
Barbara worked in civil service and the legal field before deciding to open her own store in what was—and still is—a decidedly male-centric field. She was inspired by her sister Nancy, who had opened the original Hub Cap Annie store in Memphis, Tennessee and who eventually franchised the business model to 45 stores nationwide.
Barbara’s was the second Hub Cap Annie to open, and it remains perhaps the best known; having been featured in numerous local, state, and national publications, on the television show “Real People,” and even in a musical called Keepin’ It Weird. (Keep Austin Weird is the unofficial slogan of the city of Austin.) Barbara became an expert in her field, and her knowledge of all things wheels made her a trusted source, despite the store’s location in an old house decorated like a comfortable living room. In fact, Barbara made her home in the house connected to the shop.
After closing up Hub Cap Annie in the evening, Barbara would climb the stairs to her home and “quilt all night,” according to her daughter, Brigette. Always creative and a talented seamstress and needlewoman, Barbara learned to quilt by taking classes.
“She was fascinated by quilting, and it was really relaxing for her,” Brigette continues. “She made my brother and sister and me quilt, too. We had a big quilt frame in our family room and when we were in elementary school, she would put the Righteous Brothers on the stereo and we would all sit around the frame and quilt.”
Quilts and hubcaps were both part of Barbara’s family life. “After she opened Hub Cap Annie, a lot of our family/holiday/vacation photos were always mixed in with pictures of hubcaps, laughed Brigette. “We used to tease her that she loved her hubcaps as much as her kids and grandkids!”
Barbara had sewed this quilt for her son Don out of thesame fabrics she had used to make him a jacket.
Barbara was known for her generosity—sometimes giving hubcaps away for free to those who couldn’t afford them; rescuing cats and dogs, especially those that showed up at her shop; and giving away the quilts that she made. A quilt that she made for her son, Don, was especially meaningful for him. When a jacket Barbara had sewed for him became worn out, she made him a quilt out of the same fabrics. He treasures that quilt now even more that his mother is gone.
Barbara wore many hats, both literally and figuratively. Long noted for her love of headgear, which she wore with confidence and verve, this pioneering businesswoman, animal rescuer, hubcap master, soul music lover, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and quilter will be missed. The world is a less colorful place without her in it.