RockSports Northwest/Joel's Coffee

T-shirt shop expands merchandise to include owner's specialties

RockSports Northwest owner Brad Payton is out to prove premium chocolate truffles and locally roasted coffee perfectly complement embroidered T-shirts.

After originally opening RockSports Northwest three years ago as a second location for his father's T-shirt business, Payton expanded the site at Northwest Austin's Parkline Shopping Center in March to include Joel's Coffee.

"I figured if I have the retail space, I might as well share the space and see where it goes," Payton said. "And it's starting to pick up as more and more people realize we're here."

The new venture stems from his experience at Texas Culinary Academy where Payton learned he preferred making truffles over wedding cakes or pastries. So he created Austin Truffle Co., a mostly wholesale chocolate provider that lacked a brick-and-mortar retail operation until Payton combined business concepts.

Having worked for years under his father, Joe, it was only natural for Payton to branch out, he said.

"Growing up owning a family business, you get in the mindset of being your own boss and owning your own business," Payton said. "That influence got everybody thinking and going."

Payton is one of five siblings to grow up working at RockSports. Joe Payton said it has been tremendous having the second location, and he has high hopes for his son's coffee and truffle side operation.

"We're hoping it'll be a model for other stores to follow," Joe Payton said. "People in Austin especially love the local flavors."

Every truffle Payton sells is handmade from scratch, requiring a new batch for each flavor—50 rotating choices in all, he said. The two-day process is a fun, almost artistic process for Payton, who places as much emphasis on presentation as taste.

He also is constantly improving his beverage offerings, which include locally brewed and blended coffee and tea. And, as always, Payton still tends to his family's 20-year T-shirt embroidery business. The multifaceted operation creates a unique challenge for the young owner.

"It's not always easy. I have to manage my time wisely because they are definitely two different businesses," he said. "But I make the most of my time so we can be successful at both."

RockSports Northwest, 11301 Lakeline Blvd., Ste. 120, Austin, Mon.–Sun. 9 a.m.–6 p.m., www.rocksports.net, 249-9695

By Joe Lanane
Joe Lanane’s career is rooted in community journalism, having worked for a variety of Midwest-area publications before landing south of the Mason-Dixon line in 2011 as the Stillwater News-Press news editor. He arrived at Community Impact Newspaper in 2012, gaining experience as editor of the company’s second-oldest publication in Leander/Cedar Park. He eventually became Central Austin editor, covering City Hall and the urban core of the city. Lanane leveraged that experience to become Austin managing editor in 2016. He managed eight Central Texas editions from Georgetown to San Marcos. Working from company headquarters, Lanane also became heavily involved in enacting corporate-wide editorial improvements. In 2017, Lanane was promoted to executive editor, overseeing editorial operations throughout the company. The Illinois native received his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and his journalism master’s degree from Ball State University.