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Leslie Martin: “It’s Bigger Than Bouldin”

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The Bouldin Creek Cafe has become a safe and stable place for Austinites to rely on during hard times.

By Allie Justis, Photos provided by Leslie Martin.

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Leslie Martin, the owner and operator of Austin’s very own Bouldin Creek Cafe, is going all in on community involvement during the pandemic. Whether it’s supporting other struggling local businesses in the area, giving a platform to local artists or going out of her way to make sure her employees are taken care of, the Bouldin Creek Cafe has become a safe and stable place for Austinites to rely on during hard times. 

The Bouldin Creek Cafe has experienced their fair share of challenges from 2020. Even having a break-in during the first few months of quarantine. However, they have risen to the challenge and committed to providing South Austin with high-quality curbside service. 

Recently, the cafe has partnered with the local Facebook group Runner City to bring delivery service into their repertoire. Martin says even though dine-in options are technically allowed now, her staff and customers’ safety is her top priority.

“We just decided that we wanted to do the best version of [curbside], rather than try to do a bunch of things halfway,” says Martin. “That’s just kind of where we’ve been. Implementing Runner City was our next step to really push that as a way to get our feet wet for understanding the curbside model.” 

With the dining room of the restaurant closed to the public, many have missed the regular art galleries showcased on Bouldin Creek Cafe’s interior. But Martin says she is still doing her best to elevate those local artists. 

“I definitely really care about this city. And I care about the people I work for. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make my business successful

On the Bouldin Creek Cafe Facebook page, Martin will start featuring one local artist a month. Putting their pieces and contact information on the Facebook page and website to further get the word out. Martin says it’s important to support those budding artists so they keep Austin interesting.

“It’s hard for artists to get their name out there,” Martin says. “One of the things that I wanted my cafe to be part of was pushing forward the creative side of Austin and keeping it vibrant. We’ve always had art on the walls. So it’s important to me to be a place where some local artists can get exposure.”

Other local restaurateurs and business owners might shy away from promoting other people on their platforms. But Martin embraces the idea, saying that it builds the Austin community by strengthening those relationships on a personal level. 

“I think all along my whole goal in running Bouldin has been to put something into Austin that I could see leaving or slowly disappearing. Bouldin can’t be the only place that represents what I want in Austin. It’s just important to me as an Austinite to make sure that’s there. Otherwise I don’t want to be here. I want to make sure that the things I want to see in our community thrive.”

“It’s bigger than Bouldin,” said Martin. “Our whole goal is about keeping Austin the way it’s always been, and that’s what the goal has always been. So that’s gonna mean promoting things that contribute to that.”

The notion of “people over profits” is another important value that Martin has implemented in the Bouldin Creek Cafe. The community has felt the care Martin has created with that idea. Austinites have come out in the hundreds to show their love for the Bouldin Creek Cafe in the past few months. They’ve ordered food, bought gift cards, gave money and done anything they can to help Martin and her staff. 

Martin started out as a waitress who came to Austin for college. With her trial-by-error method as a first-time restaurant owner, Martin has found ways to tailor her restaurant to her community and staff. 

“I definitely really care about this city. And I care about the people I work for. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make my business successful,” said Martin. “I think a lot of it is just sheer determination. Honestly, I think a lot of it comes from the fact that I just jumped into it.”

Martin says the key to her success is not making it a “pride thing” but instead opening herself up to feedback. So she can use it to improve her business. 

“It’s really important to be open to feedback,” says Martin. “I feel like a lot…of people are very focused on this rigid idea of what they think should happen. I think they should be able to go with the flow of what your customers want and utilize the feedback you get from people that work with you. They’re the ones that interact with the customers. And they’re the ones that are going to be able to give you the inside information you need to succeed and to grow your business in the way that your guests are wanting it to be.”

Though they are operating from a limited menu, there are still some surprises. Martin says people should definitely go check out the new Lady Bird salad that is available on Sundays only. She highly recommends it. 

“It’s new and a lot of people don’t know about it,” says Martin. “It’s only available on Sundays and it’s the perfect time to come and order curbside. You can go hang out in the park since it’s been nice lately.”

In her closing remarks, Martin talked about her love for her business, her loyal customers and the employees she has with her. She proclaims she’d be nowhere without the constant support from everyone. 

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“The staff, I mean they’re my family,” says Martin. “I care about them so much. And once again it’s related to this whole thing that for me personally, being just a business is not enough.”

For Martin, it’s not just business. It’s about fostering community and uplifting others during hard times. With luck, all that support Martin has given will come back to her tenfold.

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