Getting to know my community continues to be one of the major perks I enjoy as a Realtor. This blog allows me to share conversations I’ve had with local business owners and individuals regarding their desired impact on the community and their hopes for the city.
Looking Back With Gratitude
Situated in South Austin, Children’s Discovery Center sits under a dome of oaks surrounded by wood platforms and rainbow playhouses. Most of the structures were made by the hands of the parent community. Half filled paint jugs, tires, costumes, metallic windmills, and donated instruments lay ready to be utilized in a narrative that is child-created and limitless.
This school is special to me. Sometimes I even get terribly sappy-sentimental, thinking about pick-up time, my kids glowing in a thick layer of sand, paint, glitter, shaving cream, and mud.
Bombarded with electronics, Netflix binging, STAR Testing and weekly Spelling Tests, I realize how extremely fortunate we were to have discovered Children’s Discovery Center at the right time. Those 5 years molded them into the grub digging, tree climbing, messy adventurous children that they are today. And even with all the world’s endless distractions, their foundation is strong, poured at the right time. They’ll navigate life’s greatest challenges from a foundation of GRIT.
I called Lynne Collier, Director of Children’s Discovery School South, to see if we could talk about her program’s philosophy. And because I wanted to tell her how thankful I was that we were a part of it. I asked Lynne to describe the program in her own words.
“If it hasn’t been in the hand, and the body, it can’t be in the brain.” -Bev Bos
Lynne: We are a play based, nature based program that keeps the perspective of the young child in mind. We support whole child development.
Me: What do you mean by whole child development?
Lynne: Whole child development means we pay attention to the cognitive, physical, emotional and social needs of the child. We pay attention to each child’s unique strengths, interests and any areas that the child needs support in. We build on their strengths that consequently allow the child to follow their own passion, how they individually want to process new information.
Things are really hands on, and by the child’s preference. In the words of Bev Bos, “If it hasn’t been in the hand, and the body, it can’t be in the brain.”
They have to have too much to know when it’s too much. Kids need to physically go through the motions in order to learn. We are process oriented, be it the creative process, and the learning process. We’re not focusing on the polished product at the end, we’re not focused on milestones, we’re focused on lots of uninterrupted time, to explore new materials, to engineer to the heart’s desire.
But we set up an intentional environment, with thoughtful materials, as closely matched to real objects as possible, real PVC pipes, real tires.
A Future Of Innovation and Critical Thinking
Me: What do you think the finished product SHOULD look like?
Lynne: The ability to have critical thinking skills, integrating the left and the right hemispheres to their approaches as holistically as possible. These are the people creating the prototypes, business ventures of their own.
We’re not trying to put out cookie cutter people, we’re trying to put out the next inventors. Trying to put out social change that appreciates individual human strengths.
We are not trying to get OUR KIDS ready for school, we would like SCHOOL to get ready for our kids.
Lynne: We’ve formed 90% of our brain by age 5. The brain continues to change the neurological pathways as long as you keep giving into new experiences. New synaptic connections change the architecture of your brain. The first 5 years are critical though because it’s around age 3 when you start creating the cognitive ability to empathize.
We hone in on every teachable moment we can. And we don’t AVOID conflict, we DIVE into it. It’s how we scaffold, giving the child as little as they need to achieve it in their own big way. For a 1 year old, this may mean giving them everything. For a 4 year old, we empower them more to use their words and critical thinking skills.
Me: Give me an example of how this plays out in the classroom?
Lynne: If you put a group of children together naturally, conflict will arise. So we are teaching self discipline in our daily routines, activities, transitions between activities. If everyone wants to wash their hands at the same time it’s the perfect time to teach social justice and reestablish the boundaries of respect that you’re trying to reinforce in the classroom.
And mindfulness is a huge component to all of this.
Teaching Mindfulness, Self-Awareness and Self-Care
Me: Talk about mindfulness more please.
Lynne: Being present, actively listening to others, knowing your own triggers and individual biases, your composure. Which means you have to have self-care practices in place. Social and self-awareness.
Me: How does your staff practice self-awareness and mindfulness?
Lynne: In the Orientation Process staff goes through Becky Bailey’s Conscious Discipline Program, which sets the foundation. Consequently, it gives our teachers the tools we’re trying to teach our children. We have monthly staff training which covers emotional development, whole brain development, and social guidance techniques.
Furthermore we extend this to our families quarterly so that they can come and learn with us. We’re in a state of continuous self-evaluation. It’s critical in a child’s full educational program that parents feel empowered and informed to be their child’s advocate. It’s critical in elementary school and junior high.
For family night in November we will have Bliss Kid Yoga where we all do yoga together. It’s a big yoga fest and we all get to practice stretching and breathing, a mindfulness exercise together. And then Bliss Kid Yoga comes every Friday for the kids. They are a local nonprofit, founded by Katherine Banker, and they specialize in family friendly yoga practices.
Me: How often are the kids outside?
Lynne: Our day is 10 hours long. They’re inside from 1-3 for nap. They’re at least outside 7 ½ hours out of the 10. We leave the class room door open so they have the choice of being outside. NATURE INSPIRES. Any activity you can do indoors you can do outdoors but with more space, volume, time.
There is still a steady decline in outdoor time these days in daycare. Any time you can be barefoot outside you’re helping your child master balance, allow them to feel the earth beneath their feet.
Proprioception is increased outdoors and by being barefoot. Children have choices and that sets us apart. Therefore, as much as possible, children have choices. We want them to follow the guidelines of safety and respect, and obviously we have a weather policy. But if the weather is nice, the kids have the choice to be in or out of their shoes. We empower them through choice.
Mud, Tears, Paint, Smile Wrinkles
Me: Do you feel this school is for every family?
Lynne: A lot of schools do what’s convenient. It’s convenient to keep the kids clean. It’s convenient to keep everything structured. But here we are covered in mud, tears, paint, smile wrinkles. It may not be for everyone, but we are up front about that. Every family has to take a tour, to see the school in action, and we make it so they have to come back and visit at least once with their child so that they can be really clear on how we learn, how messy we get and the process we have here.
A Well Laid Foundation
The shock of moving from Children’s Discovery Center to public school was extreme. The thought of our kids going from 7 1/2 hours outdoors every day to a 30 minute recess absolutely wrecked me. And there was a lot of fear that they would forget how the awe, wonderment and beauty that naturally surrounds them.
As a result of their time at CDC, I have realized this foundation was laid early and layered with patience and love. It will last their lifetime. Even at age 9, there is still excitement over the simplest creatures in the dirt. And I don’t worry so much anymore.
Here’s The Proof
P.S. Yes there are no pictures of Oliver in this blog. That doesn’t mean I love him ANY less. If he stood still long enough, I’d have more pictures.
Getting to know my community continues to be one of the major perks I enjoy as a Realtor. This blog allows me to share conversations I’ve had with local business owners and individuals regarding their desired impact on the community and their hopes for the city.
When I explain my love of Austin, there are attributes of this city that have become a mantra for me: Swimming holes, breweries, iconic venues, local live music. Ownership of what makes Austin unique comes out in our every day conversation. Often it’s only partial ownership. The reciprocal relationship between fans and artists, patrons and venues, is necessary for the survival of Austin’s appealing music culture. While we like to point to job growth and the explosion of the tech industry as proof of Austin’s growing success, it’s easy to forget what makes Austin such a desirable destination and home for so many.
An hour before their show at Slow Pokes Brisket Shack, I had the chance to chat with Guy and Jeska Forsyth. While we started off talking about life in general, we ended up on the subject of Austin’s appeal as a music destination and whether it’s a sustainable culture in this time of great economic growth.
A Little About Guy and Jeska
Guy Forsyth was born in Denver, CO, but grew up in Kansas City, MO. Guy moved here in 1990 after traveling here as a stuntman with the Renaissance Festival. In his words, “I fell in love with this town, with the music scene.” Soon after, he became an Austin staple, winning several Austin Music Awards as well as the hearts of the locals.
I asked Guy whether his parents supported him as a musician.
“My folks were not musicians but rather fans and record collectors. They taught my brother and I as toddlers how to drop records while other kids were learning how to stack blocks. My mom now lives in Ingram and she comes to my shows.”
Jeska Forsyth is a recent transplant to Austin, TX. She grew up in San Angelo singing and acting at a young age. While a singer-songwriter, like many musicians she pursues other artistic ventures such as acting and voice-over work. Jeska plays a few saved voice-overs for me off her phone. She plays a ‘sexy’ shampoo commercial voice on one recording. She then plays the voice of a child from a cartoon, showing her wide range.
I asked Jeska what it was like singing the National Anthem for NASCAR.
“I was extremely nervous. Because when you have jets flying in at a certain time in the song you have to be very accurate. You have to sing with consistency. You have to time the fighter jets because they were flying from Maryland. So they had me sing the National Anthem 5 times, then they took an average of the time it took me to sing the song. And that was how they timed the jets to leave the base.”
Jeska formerly owned a blues club in San Angelo, TX called Sealy Flats where she originally met Guy. The two were married earlier this year. They make for an incredibly adorable couple.
I asked Jeska what her impression was of Guy the first time they met.
“I thought ‘Yay, he showed up for work’ and then he sang awesome, and I was blown away. I usually didn’t have time to pay attention to the shows, but I remember the exact post I was leaning on. He stopped me in my tracks, and I had to listen… and he had a terrible haircut. A mohawk… and a Hot Wheels button-down shirt.”
What We Were
Recently, Austin’s long-time music icon Dale Watson moved to Memphis, Tennessee seemingly in search for what Austin was. In an article by the Texas Standard, Dale is quoted as saying, “I just really feel the city has sold itself. Just because you’re going to get $45 million for a company to come to town – if it’s not in the best interest of the town, I don’t think they should do it. This city was never about money. It was about quality of life.”
I asked Guy what his thoughts are on Austin and the changes he sees as a musician.
“Music and art and culture in general are hard to monetize. I think of Austin in 1990. I think of how it was portrayed by Richard Linklater, who directed ‘Slacker‘. What makes him such a good director is he gave voice to strange and unusual people. He would find unique voices and then put them on film. He had a story to tell. The term ‘slacker’ suggests someone who doesn’t work very hard. But it was all about people who were just obsessed with what they love.”
“Unless Austin takes some action to protect the culture that makes it different, makes it special, it will end up being Houston, Dallas, or San Antonio. And that makes Austin uncompetitive based on the scale of those markets. We can’t lose touch with why people come here.”
“Money is a solvent, it will dissolve things that can’t defend themselves in the market place. I’m one of those things. As musicians, we could make a lot more money doing something else. The value of music is hard to monetize. Nietzsche said ‘Without music, life would be a mistake’ and he’s the biggest pessimist there is.”
The Future of Austin’s Music Scene
The Nietzsche quote resonates with me. What will Austin be without music and art but a colossal, unintended mistake? We can start with supporting the venues that house our artists. We can go further by participating in Austin’s rich music scene, getting out and attending concerts. But we can go one step further by paying attention to issues directly affecting our Austin artists, such as affordable healthcare and housing. By keeping our talent local and our long time venues open, maybe we can preserve that little spark that’s flickering in the heart of Austin, TX.
There is no replacement, no quick fix if we lose what makes us genuine, lovely, exotic, comfortable and damn original. We can talk about how awesome our funky iconic venues are, but if we don’t frequent them they will die. We can proudly tout that we’re the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ but if we don’t care about the issues that keep our musicians local, we may see more falling in the steps of Dale Watson, leaving in search of what Austin was.
What we have can’t be recreated like a theme park. It can’t be thought up in a board room and pushed out in a nice, clean package. It’s rough around the edges, there’s a well earned rind, it’s seasoned with time, and it’s valuable beyond measure. We as Austinites need to recognize the value now while we can still remember who we are and why we stay. We can embrace the change and the growth as long as we strive to preserve what made us special in the first place.
See Guy’s upcoming shows by clicking here: https://www.reverbnation.com/guyforsythband/shows
Slow Pokes Brisket Shack
Cruising down FM 1626 through Manchaca, TX there is a chance you’ve blown by this establishment speckled with classic cars, picnic tables and a giant smoker at the center. Slow Pokes unites the bike, hot rod and BBQ enthusiasts in community through the shared love of live blues, cold beer and quality brisket on this historic lot. With the entrance to Slow Pokes boldly stated with a classic ’58 Rambler as the marquee, you quickly get the vibe of this South Austin gem. Pull in and you’re instantly embraced by the sweet, sweet smell of a rich brisket smoke blanket straight from the heavens above.
This is a family run establishment, where Josh and Sarah Rodriguez are busting their tailbones in the heat every day that meat is smoking. Sundays are their only off days. Come up here on a weekday night and you’ll see the Rodriguez children Jude, Buddy and Scout taking turns herding two cats in and out of the old cars that adorn this place.
Their youngest child, Scout, domesticated these strays using a piece of brisket, a touch of patience and what I would assume to be the pure stubborn grit of a 5 year old rough-and-tumble girl. Something I know too much about, having one of my own. If you’re lucky you can catch a beloved local Austin favorite like Guy and Jeska Forsyth up here on a Tuesday night, harmonizing as they would if perched on their own front porch, their daughters dancing around on the grass before the stage.
From Hot Rods To South Austin BBQ Haven
Josh Rodriquez is one of those rare native Austinites, born and raised in South Austin. Prior to opening Slow Pokes Brisket Shack, he owned Rodriguez Rod and Cycle where he did custom paint jobs on motorcycles and race cars.
Josh says he’s been painting cars since he was 13 years old. Prior to Slow Pokes, Josh and his shop were featured on a Discovery Channel series called ‘Texas Car Wars’. He didn’t leave his love of hot rods behind, as you’ll see once you make it up here. The entire outdoor area, from the bar to the stage to the Brisket Shack, is made by Josh’s own hand. He went from building cars to building a family friendly BBQ playground that satisfies all ages. From what it seems, Josh hits every challenge head on and without hesitation.
From The Beginning
Me: How did you come up with the name?
Josh: I named it after a character off of the old Looney Toons Cartoons. Speedy Gonzalez had a cousin named Slowpoke Rodriguez. I used to paint that character on race cars as a joke. (Slowpoke is the antithetical character to Speedy Gonzalez, known as the ‘Slowest Mouse in all of Mexico’)
Me: How did you get into the business of BBQ?
Josh: It got really hot one day working on cars in the shop. Driving by, I saw a sign for lease on this land. The lot had been empty for 50 years and there was no septic. Just an empty lot with some history. I had a trailer that I used for events, car shows. And I had a car that I decided to sell for 7K. And that’s where it all started.
I had experience from watching my grandfather, and my father, who had BBQ joints out near Taylor, TX. BBQ is something that has run in my family. But I’ve taken that experience and done my own thing here.
Community and the Old Austin Culture
Me: What can you tell me about this distinct atmosphere you’ve created with the cars and the antiques everywhere?
Josh: When I had my hot rod shop it was a big building, had every inch covered with this stuff. A lot of stuff I would go find in barns or at swap meets. The community and clientele started adding to it. Everyone gets to leave their mark here.
Me: Do you see Manchaca growing into a haven of sorts for people who miss ‘old Austin’?
Josh: Yeah, I kind of see it as the last frontier. Last standing. Feels like Manchaca is preserving and growing the feeling of the Old South Austin culture. This land is a historic site. Below those old oak trees where that stage is located, people have been singing hymns since the 1870s. This was the site of a black Baptist Church that stood until the 1950’s. People have been making music here for a long time, and now we continue to do so.
Me: What can we look forward to as Fall descends upon us here at Slow Pokes?
Josh: More music throughout the weeknights. Right now we’re a venue Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. But I’d like this to grow and expand to other nights of the week.
Preserving What We Had
Slow Pokes Brisket Shack is exactly what I picture when my heart swells about my home Austin, TX. It falls in line with all of the reasons I never left once I graduated UT. It’s the reason I fell hard for this city. And even though we can all agree the town is growing up, like Peter Pan leaving Neverland to become a big boring adult, there are still pieces of what it was being preserved in these spaces. You just have to look for them, frequent them and keep them alive through your frequent patronage.
By the way, I recommend the Brisket Plate, where you get a hearty serving of brisket, potato salad, beans and sausage. All the things. You get all the things. On one plate.
A few weeks ago I grabbed a coffee with Sal Bartone, manager of Austin’s A-Team. If you live in South Austin, you’ve most likely driven by one of their many green dumpsters along Manchaca Rd. The offices of Austin’s A-Team are located in the back of the Moontower Saloon.
While you’re sure to run into him talking up the locals at the bar, he’s often decompressing from a very long, early day. ‘I wake up sometimes anywhere from 2 am to 5 am to do paperwork, and then hit the job-site, then my truck drivers come in.’ His day usually starts when most Moontower patrons are hitt’n the hay.
Meet Sal Bartone
In a thick New Jersey accent, Sal greets everyone with a ‘How YOU doin?’, which if you know Sal, you know this is his signature greeting. He goes on to say ‘Lots of people tease me because I’m an Italian from Jersey in the trash business.’ This is followed by a grin.
‘Well, how did you get into the business?’
‘I had a remodel company, and was having a hard time getting dumpsters when I needed them, where I needed them, so I bought a dump trailer. I thought, there’s gotta be a need for it in this area. It took off.’
Sal’s been in construction for 44 years. Austin’s A-Team started in 2016. The owners of Austin’s A-Team, Larry Bumb, Josh Bumb and Richard Veregge are also the owners of the Moontower Saloon, located on Manchaca Rd.
‘In the trash business, it’s not just about going to the landfill. It’s about customer service. And it’s about recycling.’
It’s About Recycling
‘What about recycling?’ I ask.
‘If you are renovating a building over 5,000 square feet, the City of Austin says you have to recycle about 50% of what get’s pulled out. So we take this to five different places to recycle the dry wall, metal, concrete, tile. You don’t have to recycle it all but I’m really into it. For concrete they crush it up and sell it for road base, tires get turned into rubber mulch, shingles get turned into asphalt. Fridges get recycled.’ Says Sal.
According to the City of Austin’s website, ‘construction and demolition debris makes up approximately 20 percent of material going to Austin landfills.’ In an effort to meet Austin’s Zero Waste Goal by 2040, the city is rerouting this debris to recycling centers to find the highest and best use of the materials.
Who’s your future customer, reading this blog right now?
‘Oh, you know, builders, real estate investors, contractors, landscape companies and the like. Also homeowners who may be doing their own remodel. We have what is called an Open-Top Container Roll-Off. They come in any size from 20 yards to 40 yards. These units have a small footprint, roughly the size of a single parking space, making them ideal for residential or commercial projects.’
Sal says their 20 yard dumpsters are great for estate sale cleanups and spring cleaning projects. They can run anywhere between 350.00 to 450.00 depending on the type of materials.
Sal says a lot of his business centers in 78748, probably due to the visibility of his branding, but also as a result of the real estate activity in the area. With tiny home communities, small business development, a pool of general contractors and individual homeowners readying their homes to list, he’s got a steady stream of business.
Sal is a family man, with his wife of 15 years KB, and his four children and two grandchildren. Whether you’re in the middle of a remodel or you just see him at HEB, make sure to tap him on the shoulder. Don’t forget to ask him ‘How YOU doin?’
10355 Old Manchaca Rd.
Austin, Texas, 78748
A Solution For Parenting Professionals
Down Old Manchaca Road you’ll see a grey-violet house nestled in the back of a large lot. When you pull down the driveway you’ll see a coffee trailer and a playscape. This is The Hive. Owner, Shelly Weiser, greeted me as she does every customer with a warm welcome. This coffee shop and co-working space embraces the average Jane and Joe’s desire for work-life balance. For those who know the struggle of keeping one foot in the workforce while the other is chasing after a toddler can appreciate Shelly’s savvy solution. This model really caters to a very under-served part of today’s workforce. As I sat working at the concrete counter, I noticed an equal balance of young men and women getting an hour or two of concentrated work done while their children had supervised fun on the playscape adjacent to the shop.
Another way The Hive positively impacts the community is through supporting locally handcrafted gift items. Shelly has managed to use Austin vendors that are primarily woman owned ventures.
Shelly had a little time to fill me in on her new business adventure, what it grew from and where it’s heading.
How did you come up with this concept?
I’m a graphic designer. I worked out of my home and often times I just needed an hour here or there to work on a last-minute project without interruption. For people who work from home with small children, you may not need full time daycare, but just a few hours of quiet time.
For $10 an hour, 4 hours a day max and 12 hours a week max we will babysit on site. The difference between us and other places with playgrounds is that we provide childcare with supervision. We have a monthly membership for $80 which gives you 10 hours of supervised childcare per month.
What woman-owned local businesses are you supporting here?
We use Perky Perky for our espresso beans. We connected with Maruxa Murphy, owner of Perky Perky Espresso, through a woman’s entrepreneur network. She started Austin Moms’ Network and she’s super tapped in to the Austin local mom-markets.
Cuvee is our drip coffee. Cuvee really helped us navigate the coffee business and the logistics of running a coffee shop.
The local honey we sell is Bee Gone by Mandi Ledford. Mandi did bee removal and ended up bringing them all to her property. This resulted in Mandi keeping these bees and harvesting the honey, which created Bee Gone. We carry Salty Lemon Apothecary owned by Daphane Mitlo. I met Daphane as a customer who happened to come in the The Hive. We started talking and hit it off right away!
As I got involved in the mom networks, I realized how many amazing things were being made by women living in the surrounding neighborhoods. I love the feeling of supporting women who like me are trying to navigate their own way.
What amenities do you offer as a business center?
For those needing to meet clients or conduct meetings, we have a board room for $25 hour. The board room seats 8 and includes a white board and projector. We also offer Free Wi-Fi to our customers during their visit.
For $550 a month, you can have your own desk which includes 10 hours of childcare, 4 hours of conference room rental and most importantly one bottle of wine every Friday.
Need more reasons to show up to The Hive?
Shelly is packing the calendar these days with events that serve a broad range of interests. Coming up in February:
Feb 3rd Hive Market Day
Feb 7th Free Boot Camp Demo
Feb 11th Valentine’s Day Brunch Date & PJ Party
Feb 17th ATX Goat Yoga
Feb 17th Tye Cooks Austin Date Night
Feb 18th UnHushed Sexuality Education for Girls
Looking to grab a drink with a friend? The Hive’s signature cocktail, Bee’s Knees, is mixture of Ray’s Lemon Spirits, soda water and a hint of cherry. Check out her assortment of wine and beer.
Oh yeah, and you can rent the facility out for birthdays, cocktail hour… you name it!
See the many ways their space can be used here: http://www.hiveaustin.com/facility-rental/
Coming soon to The Hive, a drive thru coffee trailer! The plan is to have the drive thru in the front, so you can snag your cup to go if you’re an office dweller! Also in the works is a food truck court yard with an array of food options. Keep watching as new developments arise and follow Shelly on Facebook to keep up with what’s new at The Hive.
A Perfect Balance
Every time I need to get hours of serious work done, I find myself back at Independence Fine Foods on Manchaca Rd. in South Austin. The ambiance is perfect for digging into whatever project requires my uninterrupted attention.
It’s easy to snag a table in the corner, plug in and spiral into hours of nonstop laptop tedium until finally looking up to realize the breakfast crowd is long gone and the dinner crowd has migrated in.
This respite isn’t huge in size, located on the corner of an unassuming strip center. Regardless, there is always the perfect table-to-customer ratio. It’s not ever empty, but I’m also never anxious about where I’m going to sit. Walking in I’m greeted immediately by a friendly barista, local artwork and wafts of freshly brewed Cuvee coffee.
Healthier Options, Healthier Community
The advertised dedication to locally sourced scratch cooking initially got me through the doors. While our culinary scene is diversifying and growing here in South Austin, IFF was the first in my neighborhood supporting ethically farmed ingredients and healthy cooking in an everyday café style environment.
I wondered what drew the owner and chef, Casey Livingston, to pick this location for his business.
Lucky for me, he was willing to tell.
Heidi: I just love what you bring to my neighborhood. What drew you to this side of town?
Casey: This area chose me. I grew up in South Austin. In fact, I went to Menchaca Elementary down the road. By choosing this area of town, I hoped to expose the concept of scratch cooking to my community. This is a culinary concept often offered and afforded by people living near downtown. There were a lot of fast food options here in my neighborhood, and I wanted to provide quality food from quality ingredients where I live, in my community.
Heidi: What sparked your passion for scratch cooking and local sourcing?
Casey: I started out cooking at Onion Creek Country Club where I realized the value of providing quality food without short cuts. The end result of using quality ingredients looks and feels better as opposed to using ingredients with 5 syllables. We like people to question what they eat, and we find people are doing this more and more.
Heidi: What is the most rewarding part of being a small business owner in South Austin?
Casey: Having a place where people can gather and watching them enjoy my work. Seeing a couple dating, then possibly coming back married or with their kids, and everyone just growing with us. Most importantly, these families sharing our mission of healthy eating with each other.
Heidi: What are the greatest challenges to a business like this?
Casey: When I first got started, I thought I knew what would be successful for our model. I found that I needed to be flexible in adapting to the needs of our guests. I had a clear-cut concept for my business, but I found that I really needed to listen to our customers to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s difficult but important to be flexible to your customer’s needs.
A United Front
Casey has aligned himself with vendors that preach a similar code of culinary ethics. Vital Farms for example touts ‘Bullsh*t Free Eggs’ from their pasture raised hens through the use of over 100 family farms. Their story is pretty cool, I recommend a visit: https://vitalfarms.com/.
Heidi: You advertise that you source from like-minded Texas Vendors. How did you gain experience in utilizing locally sourced products?
Casey: I’ve been a chef since 1995. When I joined the team at Whole Foods, I got to visit many of these local farms providing local ingredients. I grew up knowing where my food comes from, how it can be raised humanely and how food can be harvested responsibly. My grandparents own a farm in Llano, Texas where I spent my childhood learning how to care for cattle. To this day I still go out to the cattle farm 5-6 days a month. It’s always been a part of my life, and still is.
Other local purveyors include:
Cuvee Coffee Roasters – Austin, TX
Gundermann Acres – Wharton, TX
Solstice Farms – Driftwood, TX
Oak Hill Farms – Poteet, TX
BellaVerde Farms – Dripping Springs, TX
Village Farms – Marfa, TX
My conversation with Casey completely blew me away. I love his sense of purpose in the community he grew up in and how he has taken on a mission that benefits everyone around him, from the environment to his customers. His sense of responsibility is inspiring.
When you come by to check this place out, I highly recommend ordering an almond milk latte. Even if you’re a die-hard dairy snob, it won’t disappoint. The combination of the velvety steamed almond milk and the dark espresso makes this drink perfection in a cup, not to be soiled by sugar or other condiments! Don’t do it!
Check out their ever-rotating menu on their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/independencerestaurantsouthaustin/
Independence Fine Foods, 1807 W. Slaughter Lane, Ste. 100, 512-363-5672
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 7 a.m.-8:30 p.m.