LESLIE MARTIN, OWNER OF BOULDIN CREEK COFFEEHOUSE

In case you haven’t read our interview with Jessica Nieri yet…

Welcome to the second installment of our LOCAL BUSINESS FEATURE where, you guessed it,  we feature a local business. We are particularly interested in ones that positively contribute to the economic, social, and all around fiber of Austin, Texas.  Leslie Martin ‘s Bouldin Creek isn’t just a coffehouse, it’s a way of life. This vegetarian “second home” is  dedicated to doing their part to help  reduce our carbon imprint and are achieving this important goal one coffee mug at a time.

editors note- Bouldin has long been a supporter of the Daze. The food is great. The vibe and the people are the best. I am known to eat their veggie burger with cheese, weekly. Thanks Leslie…

AUSTIN DAZE: What made you want to start Bouldin?

LESLIE MARTIN: Honestly, I just wanted to be a part of keeping the local flavor–that drew me to love Austin, alive and kicking. I saw some of my favorite places close and thought something had to be done to put back what had been lost.

AD: When you started out, did you have a specific image in mind for sense of how you wanted it to be?

LM: Being a long-time Austinite, I “grew up” from the time I was 18 hanging out at places like Les Amis, Quack’s on the drag, and the original Tom’s Tabouli on the UT campus. I really liked the authentic character of these places; down to earth not white-washed and slick. Beyond knowing the feeling I wanted Bouldin to have, I really had no idea what I was doing at first.

AD: So much has changed and is changing in Austin. How do you feel about the changes?

LM: I believe change is inevitable and not all bad. I do miss the simplicity of Austin back when I moved here in the late 80’s. Everyone lived central easily walked or biked to do stuff. It felt like this magical place where everyone was an artist or creative in some way. Rent was cheap so it was easier to have a bohemian lifestyle. Though I am sad to see things change to the degree they have, I think it has been a shift across the whole country, not just Austin. I see so many people move to from Austin to places where the locals are complaining about the changes we’re complaining about here. I hope the whole country has a mind-shift, and I hope Austinites will stay and continue to work to keep Austin a great place to live. There are some changes that really concern me, like the population doubling, the lack affordable housing, and the development on Town Lake. I am not ready to throw in the towel, though!!!

AD: What makes hanging at Bouldin a unique experience?

LM: A lot of our customers and staff call Bouldin their second home. At Bouldin, you are part of a community and not just a table to be turned. I think this particular energy that makes Bouldin unique. There also is a hustle you don’t see at a lot of other coffee shops, and people notice this. I promote this kind of service because I want customers to know we realize they have other options. Over the past years, we have made great strides and are always trying to improve. I think the size of our food and drink menu also really sets us apart.

AD: I know you are concerned about the environment and have tried to incorporate some things into Bouldin to help limit the negative effects on this planet. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

LM: This has been a hard pill for me to swallow. No matter what you do a restaurant is an environmental nightmare. So many restaurants and bars don’t even recycle. We have always purchased recycled paper products. For seven years we used a reusable coffee filter. We reuse grocery bags for to-go orders and only offer bags when people ask. We reuse six-pack holders for to-go drink carriers. We have switched to compostable cups, straws and to-go utensils. We have always worked hard to reduce waste. It is just in my nature. Our new goal is to take it to the next level and find new ways to reduce our use of electricity and water. This is really where we make the biggest impact. It really is mind blowing and we are just a small-time operation.

AD: What made the all veg. menu happen?

LM: I guess because I started out only knowing how I wanted the place to feel, the food menu was just an afterthought. I decided to open a coffeehouse because I knew they were good places to build community. I decided to serve food because I had always loved that about Les Amis, back I the day, and, honestly, I thought that would be a sound business decision, setting us apart from other places. I decided to go vegetarian for many reasons. One, it seemed weird to be a vegetarian and serve meat. Two, I didn’t know the first thing about cooking, especially meat. Three, I thought it would be easy in a coffeehouse environment because most people would be happy you served food at all. Most of our customers aren’t even vegetarian. I am happy because both non-veg and veg people are getting exposed to veg. food they actually like. I’m proud of the food and am really glad I made the decision to go veg.

AD: What lessons have you learned about running a coffee shop in ATX?

LM: Never take business for granted. Always be forward thinking. I really love serving people and feel like the secret to success is catching a spark with your customers. Let them know you enjoy serving them. I think that is how you get customers for life, and this kind of positive energy exchange helps motivate the worker. I have also realized serving so much food makes things sooooo much harder. I would keep it simple if I were to do it over, but I am happy people like it.

AD: What is your favorite drink to make?

LM: I love making all drinks. I am kind of a barista nerd that way. I would have to say my favorite drink to make is the one that makes your face light up!!!

AD: What’s next?

LM: More square footage !!! Not sure how. I really would like the place to be able to get food out faster. I also realize that sometimes, when it gets really busy, the place just isn’t really always as comfortable as I’d like. In the last two years, with the help of my staff and manager, we have seen such an upswing in business that I hope to be able to focus my energies again on other community efforts like our free bike shop, free classes at Bouldin, and using the space as a forum for activism and customer networking.

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