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the style line byron & blue brew & brew coffee austin texas

Better Together: Meet Byron & Blue and Brew & Brew

Byron & Blue and Brew & Brew

Visit: 908 E 5th St #106, Austin, TX 78702

Story by Rachel Schwartzmann – Shop Byron & Blue – Visit Brew & BrewPhotos by Katie Jameson for The Style Line

“I think in general Austin

tries hard to support small, local businesses,” Alexia Brown, owner of independent boutique Byron & Blue relayed in our interview below, “We just need to keep spreading the word and educating ourselves and others on why this is so important.”

the style line byron & blue brew & brew coffee austin texas

Whether it’s running a small business or supporting emerging brands, in our stories so far we’ve discovered that Austin is, in fact, leading a movement in fostering independent boutiques in varying capacities. While most of our focus has been on the fashion community we’ve also noticed that this particular group of local leaders is creating a unique pillar in the Austin small business scene – today’s story better speaks to this. We first connected with Alexia Brown of the beloved boutique Byron & Blue after discovering the store online and furthermore, falling in love with its thoughtful product curation and inviting ambiance – though we soon realized there was more to the story when learning that another local favorite Brew & Brew was physically attached to the space.

We wanted to dive further and explore just how these two creative leaders are bridging the divide between their respective industries and communities. As Brew & Brew’s co-founder Matt Wright shared with us in our interview below, “We wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Austin’s small business community. Our entire support network was friends who worked at or owned other local businesses.”

Speaking more to this idea, we visited Alexia and Matt to see them both in action and get a better sense of how the space is creating a sense of connection and true community. Below you’ll find our full conversation with both Alexia and Matt who share their thoughts on Austin as a city, creating camaraderie in business and what they’ve learned from their respective endeavors so far. Also, enjoy original snapshots from our morning captured by Katie Jameson for The Style Line.

*THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MARCH 2016 AND REFLECTS UPDATED CHANGES TO THE LAYOUT AND INTRODUCTION

the style line byron & blue brew & brew coffee austin texas

Hello! I’m Alexia, the owner, and curator of Byron & Blue.

I’m a Chicago native and have been living in Austin for a little over two years.

The majority of my time is spent inside the shop where I do a ton of socializing, so time off is spent relaxing. I love trying new recipes, exploring different restaurants in the city, and reading in coffee shops.

I  spend as much time as I can with the two dogs in my life, Blue Jean, and Cousin, and I do my best to travel as much as my schedule allows.

I value good conversations, humor, family, and spending time with my partner

the style line byron & blue brew & brew coffee austin texas

How would you describe the collective personal style in Austin and how has this influenced your approach to curation? 

 Austin is relaxed – in style and nature. I’m from Chicago, where people dress up more and things feel more formal. I get the feeling that Austinites are turned off by fussiness. They want casual and attainability, they want down the earth. The shop design and the products I carry (I hope) reflect that realness.

How would you characterize the Byron + Blue customer/community and what do you hope the community contributes to the city of Austin? 

I love when customers or makers ask if they can rent out the space for discussions or meetups. These events give me a great sense of who they are — they are creative, business-savvy people who want to learn as much as they can and share what they know with others. This week in the space there will be a discussion with some local pros about how to launch your business and get your work seen, which I’m so excited for. The Byron & Blue community wants to help the creative community succeed as much as possible and create an environment where ideas and knowledge can be shared.

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How would you characterize Austin’s shopping habits/collective personal style and is there anything you’d like to see change?

I would love to see more people embracing “slow fashion” and learning to shop more ethically. It’s important to be deliberate and purposeful in every purchase you make. Know how it’s made and by whom and try to visualize it in your life for years to come. With that said, I think in general Austin tries hard to support small, local businesses. We just need to keep spreading the word and educating ourselves and others on why this is so important.

Talk to us about the product assortment. How has your eye for curation/buying developed over time? 

I know my customer better now than I did a year and a half ago when I opened. I can tell now what types of products they’ll get excited about, what colors they gravitate toward, and what price points are best. When choosing new products for the shop, I’m better at researching online and knowing what I’m looking for (and what I’m not looking for). The curation of the shop is a reflection of me and it’s a very personal thing. I think in the past year and a half of Byron & Blue being open, I’ve realized a lot about myself from what I’ve chosen to put in my shop.

What is one question you wish people asked you more often? 

“Can we do a trade?” I love a good swap. Whether it’s use of the space or a product trade, I’m down.

The Style Line was built on the premise of discovery, exploration, and transit. With this in mind, if what is your “the style line” in your wardrobe? 

I’ve definitely embraced the relaxed nature of Austin since moving here. I think comfort is the most important factor when I get dressed and I’ve always rejected looking too “put together.” There’s a photo that I love of my mother from the early 80’s that I find to be the epitome of beauty — she’s wearing jeans and a plain t-shirt and no makeup. I have an obsession with vintage high waisted Levi’s, minimal basics like worn sweatshirts, and t-shirts. In Austin, it’s pretty easy to go from day to night wearing just that. If I do dress up, I love simple, oversized dresses in silk, linen, or denim. And I wear the same piece of jewelry every day; a simple brass bracelet, a gift from my partner. I try never to wear anything superfluous, it just gets in the way.

the style line byron & blue brew & brew coffee austin texas

As a small business owner, what tools would you advise aspiring entrepreneurs to utilize in their own endeavors?

People! Talk to people doing what you do and ask as many questions as possible. And reach out to talented friends who can build you furniture, paint a sign or design a website. Even though Byron & Blue is my shop, it is what it is because of other people’s generosity and talent.

Oh, and social media! Start posting on social media even before you’re open. Get people excited. Even if you don’t think you have anything to post about yet, you do — post photos of the build out of the shop, your inspiration, your process.

What role has the small business community in Austin played in shaping Byron + Blue and how much would you say collaboration happens between B+B and other local shops? 

I host pop-ups and creative workshops as often as possible. It’s a great opportunity for local artists and makers to showcase their work without having a brick-and-mortar themselves. These types of events allow for other businesses to grow and be seen by more eyes and I love that I can somehow be a part of that. And of course, Brew & Brew is an enormous part of Byron & Blue. My relationship with them has proven invaluable and I’m not sure what I would do without their guidance and support!

What is one thing you always find yourself discussing amongst Austin-based fellow shop/small business owners? 

We talk a lot about whether or not we’re all going about all this the best way. I think it’s natural when you’re your own boss to wonder if you’re making the best decisions for your business. There can sometimes be some insecurity involved and we all compare ourselves to others. It’s important to me that I never give off a vibe of “having it all figured out” in any part of my life. I love talking to other small business owners about insecurities and mistakes and all that openness and honesty has made way to some great conversations and relationships.

the style line byron & blue brew & brew coffee austin texas

We’re three guys who really like coffee and beer,

so much so, we switched careers to start this shop. Grady and I met Matthew thanks too coffee. He was a barista at the first specialty coffee program in downtown Austin, which happened to be located in an upscale hot dog restaurant. (RIP Frank breakfast!) Outside of work, we all like drinking coffee and beer in other cities. Matthew likes to combine it with camping. Grady likes to pair it with touring breweries. And I’m the dad of the shop — I’ve got one kid and another on the way, so I value any drink that I get to finish uninterrupted.

What role has the small business community in Austin played in shaping Brew + Brew and how much would you say collaboration happens between B+B and other local shops?

MW: We wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Austin’s small business community. Our entire support network was friends who worked at or owned other local businesses.
the style line byron & blue brew & brew coffee austin texas

Today, we’re partnered with a local roaster, and we buy something like 70% of our beer from Austin breweries, so that collaboration happens daily. But the other bars, coffee shops, and restaurants on the east side are also buds. We all help promote events or bail each other out or send business to each other. It’s great.

Would you say coffee shop culture is pretty prominent in Austin? If so, why do you think that is?

MW: It changed drastically in the last 4-5 years. These days, I think of coffee shop culture as what we see in our shop — friendly baristas and shop owners working very hard to provide better and better coffee to a core of regulars who are at the shop to Get Stuff Done. Austin has added at least 10 shops like this, including us, since 2011. So that’s everywhere, and the coffee quality across town is so much better for it. But that’s pretty different than the old days of Spider House or Mojo’s (or before my time, Les Amis), where you primarily went to a shop to pretend to read a book and see if maybe you could meet someone who was pretending to study. That was more homegrown than today’s culture.

How did you first connect with Byron + Blue and how would you say the relationship has influenced the growth of Brew + Brew?

MW: We first heard about B+B when Alexia and another friend teamed up to pitch us on expanding into the former T-shirt shop next door. The space was too large for any one business, but the partnerships make it work. Doing events, shows, and hosting big groups wasn’t something we would have thought of ourselves, so to see it turn into this funky, unique space that just kind works have been really gratifying.
I also think both B+B and the gallery, Companion, have softened the edges of our space. We’re selling products from two industries that were until recently very male-dominated, where you let the nuts and bolts show (and the fermentation tanks and the espresso grinds). Alexia and Justin Cox, the designer, and curator for Companion, have created something that is aesthetically beautiful. We couldn’t have done that if we wanted to. Grady and I are pretty no-frills, so all of our friends walk into the shared space and say, “Wait, this is you guys, too?”

As a small business owner, what tools would you advise aspiring entrepreneurs to utilize in their own endeavors?

Matt Wright: Friends and spreadsheets. If you’re aspiring, that’s where it all begins. You will need expert help — tip: hire your accountant before you open — and you’re going to find those experts through your network, so start making friends in the industry now. The very first thing you should create for your business is a detailed, verifiable business model — not just a written plan. Two and a half years before we opened, we started by creating a spreadsheet in Google Docs to figure out the pour cost on a shot of espresso. No one is going to make perfect predictions about sales, margins, labor costs, etc., but once you’re open, you have to be able to compare real data with your expectations, since that will inform how you adjust and survive.
the style line byron & blue brew & brew coffee austin texas

What is one thing you always find yourself discussing amongst Austin-based fellow shop/small business owners?

MW: How incredibly difficult it is to open or expand a retail location in Austin. The process to navigate permitting, zoning, and parking regulations is broken, and the costs are mostly passed down to the people opening businesses. As booming as Austin seems, we could have a lot more small businesses able to survive charging lower prices if this bottleneck were removed. Fortunately, the city is aware and working on it via the CodeNEXT project. I think we’re all eager to see what happens.

What role do you think creativity plays in some of the world’s bigger conversations and how do you think Austin is contributing to this shift in thinking?

MW: I think everyone is reevaluating the place that work occupies in our lives. That’s the big conversation that is happening at our bar and at the national level. We started this business hoping to balance creativity, autonomy, and financial security, and we’re still not there yet. And Austin, as a whole, I mean, we’re struggling with our identity between “Slacker” and startups. It’s great that people want to come here to create — the food scene alone is exponentially better than when I arrived in 1999 — but my sense is that most people in town, right now, wish they could take their foot off the gas a little bit and spend more afternoons at Barton Springs.

How do you think Austin does a good job of fostering its small business community? 

MW: The community as a whole really is very generous. We’re fortunate that locals seek out locally owned shops, are willing to spend a few extra bucks there, and want their friends to visit them, too. And, at least in our niche of the market, there’s not much backstabbing compared to stories I hear about other cities. We’re all pretty happy trying to help each other get by.