ll archives: Hodgepodge Coffeehouse & Gallery's Lynne Tanzer and Krystle Rodriguez
We. Love. These. Ladies. Lynne Tanzer and Krystle Rodriguez own Hodgepodge Coffeehouse & Gallery, an East Atlanta gem that boasts good eats, good drinks, lovely decor and is a great place to meet. Trust us. We're girl crushing on this duo for their good-humored souls, ability to keep it oh so real, and because of their genuine interest in building a community.
Name: Lynne Tanzer, Krystle Rodriguez
Age: 30, 30
Current location: Atlanta, GA
Where are you ladies from? L – Newcastle, England K – born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, raised in Texas, lived in the Middle East for six years and settled in Atlanta, GA 13 years ago
Education: L – BA in British and American Cultures, K - BA in Sociology, Georgia State University
Business & Formal Titles: L – Co-Owner and Creative Director, K – Co-Owner and Operator
Tell us about Hodgepodge Coffeehouse & Gallery. How did it come to be? Krystle and I were dissatisfied with our jobs and got to talking about what we’d do if we knew we couldn’t fail. I wanted to do something with art and coffee, and Krystle wanted to bake her delicious cupcakes and see the smiles on peoples faces when she fed them. We decided to do some research about how to open up a coffeehouse and the rest is a whirlwind. Thank goodness we had supportive families that believed in us...sometimes more than we did ourselves. Mauvelette (Krystle's Mom) believed in us so much that she partnered with us after our third business partner bowed out.
What is your company slogan/mission? We specifically called Hodgepodge a coffee house and not a coffee shop because we wanted you to feel at home in the space. We aspire to be a place of community collaboration and damn good coffee.
What did you all do before launching Hodgepodge Coffeehouse & Gallery? At what point did you realize you wanted to be an entrepreneur instead? L – I was a makeup artist for a very well known company and I kept getting passed over for promotions for various reasons, there was a lot of nepotism at play.
I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart, I was selling hand painted photo frames to my classmates in the 7th grade, and with every job I’ve taken, there’s been some sort of side hustle. I have a need to stay inspired and be creative, so it just made sense to me that I would create art instead of watch TV all night.
Krystle graduated with a sociology degree from Georgia State University and worked in non-profits until she had her beautiful baby girl, Lily. She decided that she wanted to become an entrepreneur when she realized that the worst part of the jobs she had taken had been her bosses. That was the driving force behind her wanting to be her own boss.
Whenever you decided that you were ready to take the leap, what were your next steps? I don’t feel like there was a day when we had an “ah ha!” moment. I think it’s just our personalities to take a leap of faith.
Krystle was a trooper in the infant stages, taking Lily (her daughter) to the courthouse and filling out paperwork while I was still working my job. We got our business license, started our LLC, shopped for days to find everything we thought we’d need (the list is still never ending), we laid the kitchen tile ourselves, got our good friends to make the coffee bar, bought every 12oz cup in every Goodwill in Georgia. We read every book/article/blog post about starting a business and took everything with a grain of salt.
We were lucky that we had each other to lean on, because every time one of us doubted what we were doing, the other was there to talk us off the ledge.
How long has it been since you first launched Hodgepodge Coffeehouse & Gallery? What is different now versus the very beginning? Has anything become easier to manage? What has become harder? It’s been over 3 years and in that time, we have learned so much. In the beginning, it was just the three of us (Lynne, Krystle & Mauvelette) and three staff members – all working obscene amounts of time. We didn’t take any time off, we were constantly in the thick of it. I’m sure we were beyond annoying to be around.
L – Personally, I have learned to be more firm, stick up for myself and write everything down. I’ve also definitely learned to be more organized.
The thing that has become harder is that with the growth of the business, we have had to hire more staff and relinquish some control because we don’t have time to do it all. Delegating is something I still struggle with.
K – Our initial business plan has been thrown out of the window as we’ve evolved to cater to our community's needs. With the expansion of menus comes the expansion of inventory, budgets and staff. Luckily the growth was organic so we never felt too overwhelmed. It’s easier now to try new things, when we first opened we were so worried that one bad decision would close our doors. Now we realize that some ideas work, some don’t, but that’s OK. The important thing is to keep trying.
What was the biggest thing you guys overcame in launching Hodgepodge Coffeehouse & Gallery? Our initial budget was miniscule compared to what it actually takes to run our business. We had $40,000 to get our building built out, fill it with the necessary equipment, supplies, initial food and beverage purchases (Batdorf coffee aint cheap), rent and payroll, and we stretched every penny.
Another thing was the naysayers. You already have enough self doubt when you take the leap to open your business. Hearing strangers and friends tell you that they think it won’t work for one reason or another was hard to swallow. Luckily we had each other and we try hard to celebrate the milestones.
Would you describe Hodgepodge Coffeehouse & Gallery as your “dream jobs”? Why or why not? What constitutes a dream job for you? L – Hodgepodge is absolutely my dream job, it’s creative, it’s social, it’s a family. I like the feeling at the end of the day having a checked off to-do list and the ache in my bones of a hard days work.
I wanted a job where I had the freedom to be artistic and have a strong sense of community. I don’t get to be as creative as I’d like to be because of the daily grind, but the times where I get to put on an art show and I see the smiles on peoples faces, paint table numbers or hear a super talented singer songwriter at Open Mic are so personally rewarding.
K – It’s my dream job because I can not imagine doing anything else. In the daily grind, I can sometimes feel myself wondering about a life of leisure, staying at home and looking after my kids full time, but in reality that would be a horrible idea. I love that we’ve created a community where one was needed, I love that people think of this as their second home. I would like to get to a point where my home and work life is more balanced; but I know that will come with time.
Entrepreneurs live and breathe their businesses. How do you balance work and life? Do you think that’s even possible? L – It’s so hard to keep a work life balance when you love what you do. Everything becomes related to the business somehow. I struggle constantly with feeling like no one gets enough of my time, which is rough when you’re married and have a child. Sometimes it feels like my marriage is the thing that gets the least attention because it’s the place that I feel the most secure; we’re in this for life, so I feel like he’ll understand why I have to cancel date night, or not want to go on vacation because I can’t leave town in case something happens, but that’s not true. It puts a strain on things and I have to constantly remind myself to make my hubby a priority.
I have found that journaling helps; I’ve kept one since I was 14. And I joined a band, which sounds counterproductive when I spread myself so thinly to begin with, but singing is a huge stress reliever. When I feel like I’m failing at everything else, a round of applause for something that is solely “me” is really dope.
K – I am really fortunate to have a husband who is in the struggle with me. He works from home to take care of our toddler while I am at the shop; once I am home, we switch shifts. I think the most important thing is to give yourself grace; stop saying things to yourself that you wouldn’t dare say to a friend. I think it would be ridiculous to tell a female small business owner with two kids, a husband, two dogs and a house that she really needs to wash those dishes, so I’ve stopped saying it to myself.
What do your daily routines consist of?
L – I wake up, take my son to school, go grocery shopping for the shop, get some coffee (very important, unless no one will want to be around me at all) answer emails and plan out my day.
The rest of my day consists of updating social media, meeting with artists and planning shows. Keeping inventory of our merchandise, researching new merchants, planning events and helping with general manager tasks. I usually end my day with a last round of emails and more coffee.
I like to keep 5-8:30pm free so I can spend as much time as I can with my 2-year-old. The evenings, I like to relax with my hubby and some Netflix/Shark Tank, sometimes do some art and I pin a LOT on Pinterest!
K- Wake up at 7, get ready, drop Lily off at school at 7:30, come to the shop, do whatever needs to be done here, sometimes it’s being behind the bar, inventory/payroll/quickbooks/meetings, etc. Leave the shop at 2:15pm, pick up Lily from school, go home, snack, homework with Lily, make dinner, finish up any leftover work and mindlessly watch reality TV until I black out...
You have to do it and you hate it – what are your least favorite tasks to do at Hodgepodge Coffeehouse & Gallery? L – DISHES!
I also am the creative director, so telling someone that their art is not up to the standard that we’re looking for is sometimes difficult. I never want to discourage anyone from making art, but there are a lot of folks that need to hone their craft before displaying it.
K- The hardest thing is when people make me be a boss. I hate having to do write ups and have conversations about work ethic. I know it has to be done, but I really wish people would just do their job, do it well and with a smile on their face.
You’re on the verge of a business-lady-breakdown. How do you unwind? L – “Stoop Night” – I call the girls together and we drink wine and bitch about our day, usually on my friend Betsy’s stoop. I also like to go belt out some songs at karaoke or take a long drive with the windows down.
K – I concur with “Stoop Night”. I meditate, but not nearly as much as I should. Sometimes you just need a good cry...and xanax is my favorite.
What did you think you’d be doing now where you were 10? L – I wanted to be the editor of Rolling Stone Magazine. K – I wanted to be a teacher because I only wanted to work 190 days a year.
Tell us 3 of your cannot-live-without ladypreneur apps. L – Instagram – To post and to check out what our followers are getting into. Spotify – You’ve got to have a good work playlist; it makes me energized and inspired. iHandy Level – I put up a LOT of art. I like having a level in my pocket.
Top 5 favorite cities? L – New Orleans – It’s magic, pure and simple. Newcastle Upon Tyne – My hometown has the most beautiful architecture and the “Northern Hospitality” is apparent everywhere you go. Atlanta – I fucking LOVE my city, I almost wish there was less to do because I miss out on so much. Paris – Me and my hubby always have such a blast when we visit the city of lights...and I can eat bread and cheese for every meal and I’m not given the side eye. Edinburgh, Scotland – If I wasn’t in Atlanta, I’d probably live in Edinburgh, it’s beautiful, full of great art and the Scottish are wonderful people.
K – Dubai – I lived there my sophomore and junior year of high school and I still have friends there to this day. I can’t image a better place to go through my high school years. Phucket, Thailand – Beautiful, tranquil, the cost of living is insanely low and the people are amazing. London – As long as I eat fish and chips everyday. When I was a teenager I could have lived in the Camden open air market alone, I felt like I was with “my people”. Paris – Being able to get lost and spend an entire day doing nothing, but feeling like you’re better for it.. And of course, Atlanta – Atlanta has a way of feeling like home; I don't think that we would have been able to open up anything like Hodgepodge in any other city. The amount of love and support that is shared through the art scene is unparalleled.
Red, White, Sparkling or stronger? L – Gin and Tonic, twist of lime
K – Mostly a wino, I can do vodka or gin on occasion. I had a summer of “Tom Collins,” basically anything a seventy-year-old woman will drink, I’m down for.
For dessert, I have to say Hodgepodge; our bakers Lori and Kat know how to throw down. We have a lot of paleo and gluten free options, so I get to feel good while shoving food in my mouth.
Words to live by: L – Be Nice.
K – I have deemed 2015 the year of “No fucks and all the glitter”. What people think of me is none of my business.
In 3 years you’ll be: L – On every “Best of Atlanta” list, on vacation, 30lbs lighter, with a standing weekly massage appointment, maybe pregnant again...maybe on tour with a rock band? Who knows, the world is my oyster.
K – All of what Lynne said is good, with the exception of the “being pregnant again”. The man, the myth, the legend...maybe a grown up.
What advice would you give to budding ladypreneurs interested in owning a coffee shop or having a brick and mortar biz? L – Be prepared to do what you love about 15-20% of the time. With a brick and mortar comes employees, payroll, repair men trying to rip you off, taxes, clogged bathrooms and phone calls at all hours of the day.
K – Just kill it.
Anything else to add? Spill it: L – I recently started a “Boss Lady Cocktail Hour” where women entrepreneurs get together and discuss life. It’s really important to me to be around like minded folks. It’s targeted to women only because I feel like there’s a definite difference between men and women in business. Women seem more open and honest, there is less competition because we’re cheering each other on, and a lot of the time people don’t take you as seriously as a business owner because you’re a woman.
I would encourage any business owner to make friends with as many folks that they admire because you become most like the people you spend your time with.
K – If you don’t love what you’re doing – don’t do it. Remember that rewards are not just monetary. Kill it.