Hodgepodge coffee house opened on Moreland Ave in 2012, and it quickly became THE meeting place for Ormewood Park residents. Ok, it’s actually on the East Atlanta side of Moreland, but that is a very minor detail, and the fact that OP residents risk life and limb every day to cross Moreland to get there is a testament to its awesomeness. It has great coffee, great ambience, and an eclectic mix of art, food, and events that enable it to live up to its name. Now it is only fitting (and we are so excited!) that Hodgepodge has become an inaugural sponsor for the Ormewood Park Meet the Makers festival on Saturday, March 25. We would like to introduce our festival enthusiasts to Krystle Rodriguez, founder and owner of Hodgepodge, who you will find out has a dirty little secret (Elle ne boit pas de café !?!), and offers a teaser about what’s happening at the coffee house in 2017!
How did you come to own a coffee house in the East Atlanta/Ormewood Park area?
I had worked in non-profit ever since I graduated Georgia State University. Once I left my job to stay home with my first daughter, the idea of what did I want to do for the rest of my life came up. I had imagined owning a community focused place since college, and it seemed like this was the time. I had two other friends who were at the same crossroads and the idea of a coffeehouse was born. We knew we wanted it to be a place that cultivated art and conversation. We looked at a lot of properties, but when we got to this one, even though it had been vacant for two decades, it just felt like home. We officially opened our doors January 21st 2012, when I was 27.
Happy 5th birthday! As you allude, Hodgepodge is much more than just a coffee shop. It is an ever revolving art gallery, a venue for open mics, and other events. Where do you get your inspiration for creating the atmosphere at Hodgepodge?
Honestly, our inspiration is our customers. We're a community space that reflects the community we live in. If someone asks if they can try out an open mic, a comedy show, or a live drawing, we're more likely to say yes than no. Some things stick, some things don't, but we're not afraid to try.
Try and succeed more often than not. Since you own a coffee house, the coffee is obviously important. In full disclosure, this interviewer is not a coffee drinker, but my wife loves her Hodgepodge coffee. Is serving good coffee a matter of just liking it yourself, or do you have to put a lot of time into becoming an expert?
Full disclosure: I don't actually drink coffee. If you ever come into the shop and see a cup in my hand, it's hot tea. But I love the way people come together over good coffee, which is why a coffeehouse was so appealing to me. All walks of life come through our doors every day and I've seen beautiful interactions that I don't think would have taken place anywhere else. Once we started training at Batdorf and Bronson (the roaster we use) I fell in love with the ritual of making coffee. There are so many subtle nuances that can change a drink completely. So I don't think serving good coffee is a matter of liking it yourself. I think it's more about your passion to create something special for another human being. Everything we serve has been tested and tested and tested again. You would be shocked that our baristas aren't bouncing off the walls day in and day out with how much coffee, espresso, and toddy they drink every day for quality control! Everything we add to the menu has a lot of thought and care behind it. Recipes we've always had, have been finessed. It's truly a labor of love. I think people who have stuck with us for the last five years have seen the transition. At least I hope.
Now that you mention it, I think I did see a barista change a light bulb without a ladder one time. But they are very nice folks, and several have been with you a long while. On to the food selections, which are too yummy to resist. Great selection of baked goods, and the Jamaican patties are a personal favorite. How do you do it?
The nice thing about our name is that we don't have to limit our brand. We can have some fun, play around, and once again see what works and what doesn't. So usually it's, "these are delicious let's try them in the shop." My mom is Jamaican so patties were brought in by her. She also came up with the biscuit, scone, and muffin recipes. The chocolate banana bread, cookie cake, and our cupcake recipes are mine. When Emerald City dropped off samples the answer was yes immediately. We also really like to give our employees the ability to flex their muscle and grow their passions. Anytime Lori, our head baker, suggests a new creation our response is usually "that sounds delicious" and it always is! That's how we added our blueberry crumble, pumpkin bars, cranberry upside down cake, and many more to the bakery menu. We really do end up with a delicious hodgepodge with something for everyone.
Oh yeah, the blueberry crumble. Not good for the January dieters. So what do you consider to be the most interesting factoid about you and Hodgepodge?
Probably how much we have no idea what we're doing. No one has a business background. My degree is in sociology. But, you know, we just went for it. Also, I don't know if it's interesting, but I will say people always seem surprised to find out that we are a women owned business, especially with women of color.
Well it seems like you might have an idea about something, and on a serious note, we love that you ably represent the diversity of this area, which makes it a special place to live. Finally, you recently turned the building into a work of art in its own right, with several murals painted by local artists. Do you have any cool new plans upcoming in 2017?
We actually do! It's a bit hush hush for now, but there should be some big changes in the interior of the building hopefully by Fall 2017!