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An Interview with Alex Lee, co-owner of Indy Coffee Club and Scorpion

Indy introduced Parlor to Texas’s specialty coffee scene. When we connected in 2014 with Alex and co-founder Jake Scott, I was struck by their ambition: they aspired to offer the best coffee in the state from a single truck on the corner of Huebner and Vance. We bonded quickly over humble beginnings.

Since then, Alex and Jake have built every shelf, spackled every wall, and laid every inch of concrete in their three brick-and-mortar locations: Indy; their cafe, Scorpion; and their dapper clothing and sundries store, Temple of Offering. The pictures they shared of their progress along the way reminded me of Dillon and his father building the centerpiece bar of Parlor’s Tasting Room, those days when Dillon pulled every shot, every day, on the barbershop Speedster.

Each space Alex and Jake build reflects their genuine love for local design and culture. Community members pour in daily for impeccably brewed coffee, a fine Beaujolais, or Peruvian-inspired fare; just as you’d expect, the crew embraces every wanderer who crosses the threshold. I get my dose when I can, though it’s never often enough.

Our evolving relationship has fundamentally influenced Parlor’s wholesale program philosophy. We’ve learned so much from each other, and I’m forever grateful for their companionship. 

- AJ Walzer

How did Indy get started? 

Indy Coffee started as a mobile coffee truck, serving the northwest side of San Antonio, before we opened our brick-and-mortar cafe in the same area. We set up shop right across the university Alex attended after we noticed a lack of specialty coffee in the young community. We’ve been committed to serving that community, and the rest of the city, ever since. Now we’re coming up on our seventh year of business.

What do you like most about San Antonio? 

After living here for over ten years, we’ve built some strong and lasting relationships with members of our community, and we’ve grown to love working together to serve our city. As cliché as it may sound, San Antonio is a big city with a small-town feel. The small business community, in particular the coffee community, is tight-knit. We frequent each other's shops.

Anything you'd want a stranger to know about Indy and Scorpion? 

We are owner-operated. We really value knowing how our ingredients are produced and sourced. At Scorpion, our kitchen makes it a priority to source produce and protein from local farms when possible. We partner with neighborhood urban farms: Garcia St. Farm/Turniphead Gardens for produce and Windy Hill Farms for chicken and beef. At Indy, we’re starting to donate our coffee grounds for compost and collect food scraps for dyes to give to local artists. We’ve hosted local photographers and other visual artists in our space. We value putting money back into our local economy and supporting others who are passionate about what they do.

Can you tell us more about some of the extra efforts you've taken on during or in response to COVID?

Through these challenging times of COVID we've been fortunate enough to help organize and collaborate with other small businesses in our city. One example is Give Mama Coffee: we partnered with Spurs player Patty Mills and his team, along with eight other local coffee shops, to raise more than $100,000 for Family Violence Prevention Services in our city. We've also built bridges with folks outside the coffee industry by hosting digital conversations and having a dialogue with other small business owners on how they’re pivoting their operations to respond to COVID, as well as the importance of supply chain, tipping staff, livable wages, and mental health during this pandemic.

What are your biggest challenges now? What keeps you motivated? 

Definitely the biggest challenge has been the prolonged safety measures we’ve had to take to keep our staff and our community safe in the midst of COVID, and the mental and physical exhaustion that go along with that. Keeping our staff paid and taken care of. Last month also brought an historic winter storm in Texas, which knocked out our power and clean water. 

Everyone's hard work and dedication to our businesses have kept us motivated during the pandemic. We’ve been through a lot this year, but we are more passionate than ever about investing in our community and empowering our connections.

Dare we ask... why do you serve Parlor coffee?

We love working with Parlor because of the people behind the company and their dedication to positively impacting everyone they’re involved with, from farmers all the way to cafes. Parlor treats us like family. They’re committed to consistently high-quality yet accessible coffees, and we’re so proud to have them as our only coffee partner since we started our businesses. 

Thank you, Alex!

Since this interview, the storefront of one of Indy's neighbors, Noodle Tree, was vandalized with hateful language directed at Asian Americans. As always, Indy rose to the occasion, organizing customers to cover the graffiti with heart-shaped messages of love and encouragement instead.
As we continue to witness the past year’s dramatic rise in violence against Asian Americans in this country, we at Parlor offer our love and support to the AAPI community. We’re proud to work with Asian Americans, and consider ourselves fortunate to live and work in a racially diverse community. We continue to stand in solidarity with all people of color and call yet again for an end to racially motivated violence.

Photos by JoMando Cruz, courtesy of Indy Coffee Club.