IndieAustin: Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Tito’s Handmade Vodka is the creation of former geophysicist, Tito Beveridge (yes, that is his real name). After earning his degree at UT Austin, Tito’s career path took him from running heli-portable dynamite seismic crews in South America to mortgage brokering back here in Texas. Somewhere along the way, he started infusing vodka with ingredients like habaneros to give to friends. One night, at a party, a stranger approached him, “Hey, you’re the vodka guy!” Still selling mortgages, he quickly corrected the man with, “No, I’m the mortgage guy,” but that got him thinking…

Inspired, and during a time of self-reflection, Tito drew a line down a sheet of paper, listed his skills and passions, and looked for overlap. Soon enough, he set out to distill vodka. On a plot of land outside Austin, he built a one-room shack and started building stills based on photos of old moonshiners and prohibition-era busts. He toyed with the still and the recipe until the result was “a vodka so smooth you could drink it straight.”

Then he hit a wall.

Tito tried to get some financing, but investors turned him down, convinced he would fail. The State of Texas had never been home to a legal distillery, after all. So, with a mix of savings and 19 credit cards (on which he racked up about $88,000), he funded himself.

Hunched over books of code, he soon discovered nothing in the law prevented him from starting a vodka operation. He convinced the state to let him incorporate and obtained the first legal distilling permit in Texas, selling his first case in 1997. For years, he spent most days alone in the shack, distilling, hand-filling, and labeling every bottle.

During those early days, Tito started donating product to local nonprofit fundraising events. He would show up with a case, pour drinks, and serve them with a simple request: “If you like it, tell 20 of your closest friends.” Over the years, this small, localized gesture evolved into a nationwide movement as the company grew, empowering employees, customers, and fans to make a difference in their communities through the Love, Tito’s and Vodka for Dog People programs.

With a goal to turn spirits into love and goodness by joining forces with nonprofits across the country, Tito’s works to give back in meaningful ways. One of their latest projects is a new Love, Tito’s retail space downtown at 215 Lavaca Street. 100% of net proceeds of whatever you purchase – a new collar for your four-legged friend, a Tito’s tee, some branded barware — go to the nonprofits they support.

While you can’t enjoy a Tito’s there due to Texas liquor laws, the store has a bar finder listing local spots that serve up Tito’s cocktails, brand new merchandise, a doggy photo booth, and more.

IndieAustin: Tapestry Dance

Tapestry Dance is both 30 years old and brand new in their new home at 2015 East Riverside Drive – behind Taco More.  Founded in 1989, Tapestry leapt onto the international stage and instantly became a highly regarded multi-dance form company and academy.  The professional company actually exists as the only full-time professional dance company specializing in rhythm tap dance in the world and the organization hosts one of the oldest international tap festivals worldwide every June. But Tapestry’s reach extended far beyond the performing dance world with its multiform dance academy that makes dance accessible to everyone of all ages and levels.

Co-Founding Artistic Directors Acia Gray and Deirdre Strand created Tapestry to bring together the diverse worlds of tap dance, contemporary, ballet, modern, and jazz.  Over the decades, Tapestry’s reputation and expertise in tap and tap fusion has earned a global reputation. As well, the company’s Annual Soul to Sole International Tap Festival brings together dancers from all parts of the world in a multi-day celebration of dance technique and history every June and exists as one of the oldest tap festivals in existence.

Tapestry Dance Company is a resident company of the Long Center and presents a full season of performances as well as touring many productions across the US and abroad. Tapestry Dance Company concerts are known for telling profound stories and looking at compelling issues through a fusion of dance, music, poetry, and percussion as well as celebratory tributes to this indigenous American art form.

On the educational front, Tapestry Dance Academy has taught dancers of all levels and from all walks of life with astonishing results.  Students of the company’s training programs have gone on to professional dance careers not only with Tapestry itself but with STOMP, Michelle Dorrance Dance, Momix, Doug Varone & Dancers, The Rhythmic Arts, and Sound Movement in New York City to name a few.  In a non-competition atmosphere, youth and adult students looking for anything from professional honing to a great workout have found themselves in Tapestry dance classes. The academy’s focus is on increasing self-confidence and self-expression while celebrating the history and technique of each style of dance –  allowing students to become dancers in the truest sense: through their art, they share themselves with their families and their communities whether for recreation or professional training.

Tapestry celebrates more than dance, more than rhythm, more than art–it celebrates life itself.  Tapestry’s dances, concerts, classes, and faculty all embrace the art form of dance and the rhythm that connects us all.

Now that Tapestry Dance has found its new home in the Riverside neighborhood, this long-standing, nonprofit organization stands ready to welcome dancers of all ages and from all parts of Austin and beyond.  Who is the ideal person to take a class at Tapestry Dance or go see a show?  You and your family! If you are alive then your heart has a beat; come celebrate that beat and the rhythm of your life with a dance class at Tapestry!

You can find out more about Tapestry Dance, the professional company, the academy and our various AISD outreach programS and scholarships at

Sharing the Power of Dance Since 1989

UPCOMING EVENTS at The Long Center/The Rollins Theatre ( for tickets)

Of Mice & Music – A Jazz Tap Nutcracker (December 12th – 22nd)

Looking Forward/Looking Back (March 26th-29th 2020) – premiere

IndieAustin: Think Big! Program

The Think Big! Program and its creators, Sandy Stewart (Founder) and Natalie Rodgers (Program Designer), are based right in the heart of the South First IBIZ District. They support small business growth here at home in Austin, as well as across the United States.

The Think Big! Program is a training program that was initially designed in 2007 as a spin-off product of Swiss Avenue Partners, its parent company. Swiss Avenue Partners’ proprietary training tools and methodologies were redesigned to fit the small- and micro-business needs and became the Think Big! Program. At the heart of all of their tools is the objective to support companies in understanding their business value and how to grow it.

From day one of starting the company in Sacramento, Sandy had her sights set on moving the company to Austin where she had already been living previously for 6+ years. As she says ‘Once an Austinite, always an Austinite’. She was sure to tell anyone in California who called her a Californian, ‘oh no, I’m a Texan who just happens to be living in California’. She moved the company’s headquarters to Austin in 2010 and never looked back.

When it’s time to put their strategic hats on for their own business, they get out of the office and head to some of their favorite Austin spots like Barton Springs Pool or the Austin Public Library. They can also be seen out and about checking out the local coffee shops and restaurants when they want to get into a creative thinking mode.

The curriculum teaches business skills, from the basic to the complex. Some have even referred to it as their own customized MBA program, specifically tailored to their company’s needs. Business owners and key (or upcoming) managers learn skills, know-how, and shortcuts for how to run a better business.

It includes topics that range from Direct and Indirect Sales, Strategic Planning modules, Financial Modeling lessons to modules dedicated to hiring and managing staff and developing high-functioning managers.

Because the program services a multitude of industries, they have fun playing in all different types of companies; bakeries, accounting firms, IT consulting firms, confectioners, manufacturing, construction, auto transportation, and senior care services to name a few. In all, they’ve helped over 67 different industries.

There are some areas that the program does not focus on, and in those areas the team at Think Big! Program becomes a referral source for a multitude of B2B service providers. They often uncover business needs that are best served by other experts, such as Marketing consulting, CPA and accounting services, bookkeeping services, IT consulting, legal services to just about anything that a small business might ever need.

Because the Think Big! Program team lives and breathes a value of community, they are keen to know well any B2B professional service neighbors so that their clients have a matchmaking experience that provides the best fit referral tailored to their need and personality style.   

Sandy and Natalie were excited to join AIBA because they felt such a strong match of values between the Think Big! Program and the AIBA community. Both care deeply about small businesses and believe that strong, healthy, small business growth is what fuels a healthy economy and feeds a local community with flavor and style.

You never know when you might see them around town teaching at luncheons, breakfasts, webinars, or other events. Please introduce yourself. They are eager to get to know their fellow AIBA members and fans.

Contact the team at Think Big! Program via email at, by phone at (512) 686-3600 or visit their online academy at Check out the parent company at

IndieAustin: Hoover’s Cooking

It’s 2pm on a bright Friday afternoon and the lunch rush at Hoover’s Cooking is still simmering with laughter and conversation. The welcoming scent of smoked meat drifts through the open dining room where new and longtime customers enjoy generous plates of the city’s finest comfort food. Hoover’s Cooking is twenty-one years old and still going strong, thanks to the inspired efforts of owner Hoover Alexander and his mission to promote, maintain, and protect Austin’s culinary traditions.

“I’m a guardian of Austin restaurant history,” he says. “I maintain that honest, straightforward niche, help bridge the old and the new, and celebrate and honor the unsung heroes of the past and present. At some point, pride becomes a brand of its own.”

To understand where he’s coming from, you have to go all the way back to 1932, the year the Night Hawk restaurant opened. The chain, whose last Night Hawk Frisco Shop closed its doors last year after a 65-year run, employed women and minorities before such things were politically correct, and was Austin’s first fully integrated restaurant. Its owner, Harry Akins, was an innovator, entrepreneur, and food quality evangelist. (He raised his own beef to ensure the quality of Night Hawk’s steaks and hamburgers.) The Night Hawk and Frisco Shop were legendary, and Hoover Alexander started working there when he was in college and went on to learn every thing there is to know about running a successful restaurant business.

“I worked every single position there. I started as a busboy and ended up doing everything, he says.” One of the unsung heroes he honor to this day—he thinks a lot about life’s unsung heroes—is Mr. Leon, a longtime Night Hawk friend who showed Hoover how much love, effort, and labor it took to make the food that made the Night Hawk so special. “Mr. Leon worked there forever. He had a third- or fourth-grade education, could read bible verses and recipes, and was a real inspiration to me. He mentored me. He taught me how to make gumbo, pie shells, the whole from-scratch thing.”

Fast-forward to now, an era of lightning-fast growth and a super competitive restaurant market. Where does that leave Hoover’s Cooking, an Austin institution of the highest degree? “ We have to constantly reinvent ourselves, keep giving the customer what they like, “ he says. “ You have to keep marketing to the new population when you aren’t the new kid on the block. You just have to keep your name out there.”

Adapting to change and staying relevant is right up there with being “honestly, sincerely grateful” for the twenty-plus years as the captain of his own ship. Hoover says, “after this long, you have the perspective of a business owner, and you start to really appreciate the core group of employees who don’t get the credit, but do get the blame.” Several members of this core group have been with Hoover since the beginning, back to when he owned
GoodEats. “I get up every day and set the dial for ‘G,’ for grateful,” he says. I have a lot to be grateful for.

Visit Hoover’s cooking at 2002 Manor Road, 512-479-5006,

—Story and photo by Ann Guidry

IndieAustin: Precision Camera & Video

Precision Camera has maintained its status as an Austin original since 1976 when it opened as a camera repair shop. Founders Jerry and Rosemary Sullivan grew the business into the largest camera store in Texas, the oldest camera repair shop in Austin, and the most trusted retailer for photography equipment, classes, and print services in town. The store is known for its stellar customer service and talented staff of salespeople. General Manager Gregg Burger says, “Everyone who works here is incredibly knowledgeable about photography and cameras. And they are all really nice people, too.”

Recently, the Sullivans retired and handed the reins over to new owner Phil Livingston. The previous Oakland Raider (he was a Super Bowl champion in 1981) relocated from Boulder, Colorado to Austin to run Precision Camera. Burger says, “There’s a renewed energy in the store. We’re offering the same great service and equipment, but now we’re taking our expertise out into the community. We are going to New Braunfels, Fredricksburg, Houston, and outlying areas so customers who usually come to us can take classes where they are.” Among the free and paid workshops Precision Camera now offers outside the city limits are basic how-to-use-your-camera classes as well as Flash Fest, a three-day event that teaches photographers about off-camera flash techniques.

Some things are changing while most others stay the same. Precision Camera continues to sell cameras and equipment for the same price as online retailers and big box stores. The difference is that when you shop at Precision Camera, you gain the tremendous benefit of the staff’s expertise and guidance. Burger says, “When you shop here, you get to play with the equipment, talk to a professional about it, make sure you are getting exactly the right camera for your needs. We have deep knowledge about what is going on in the industry. That means we can let our customers know, for example, that it might be better to wait a month and buy a camera that’s just coming out if the one in the store doesn’t suit them.”

That kind of value is hard to find, and it’s what Precision Camera does best. In addition to selling cameras and photography equipment, and offering top-notch classes, the shop does photo restorations, including transferring your old movies and videos onto memory sticks. Burger says, “We do everything in-house, so you don’t have to worry about your memories getting lost in the mail.”

Visit Precision Camera & Video at 2438 West Anderson Lane, 512-467-7676 or today.

—Story and photo by Ann Guidry

North Loop Sign and Graphics Shop

North Loop Sign and Graphics Shop, in the heart of the North Loop IBIZ District, is not a sterile, corporate print shop. Your first hint is the whimsical space cowboy mural out front offering “Greetings from North Loop” alongside a banner promising “full service graphics action” and professing a love for, among other things, “festivals, art, fun, progress, ideas, and people.”
The shop Lisa Bruner opened 15 years ago is now home to a small but mighty team of five. Nick Treviño, who joined forces with Lisa 9 years ago, says, “We’re part of the group of elders here in the District.” And for them, as for most of their neighbors, that means a strong commitment to their neighborhood and neighbors.

A 17-year North Loop resident, Nick loves to live, work and play here, as well as send his daughter to school right nearby. He loves being part of a community that takes care of its own. And he loves to participate in District events like the North Loop Block Party, joining up with the bar next door to provide a beer garden with food, entertainment, and even fireworks!
When they’re not throwing parties, North Loop Sign and Graphics provides everything you’d expect from a printer: digital printing and vinyl products like banners, yard signs, stickers, flyers, postcards, and business cards. But they also do fun stuff like vinyl wrapping, channel letters (electrical signs), neon, dimensional letters, and plaques.
By partnering up with event planners, artists and other service providers, they’ve been able to participate in larger events like SXSW, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Euphoria, and other local festivals. Some memorable projects include:
• Wrapping an entire bus for the Texas Monthly barbecue tour (their largest wrapping job so far).
• Custom printing and panels for 28 foot display.
• Creating an airport for a children’s party.
• SXSW structure takeovers, including a 4-venue project on Rainey, wrapping a coffin, and creating custom flags and cornhole games.
• Wrapping classic arcade games for Bird’s Barbershop, and wrapping downtown pedicabs.
• Museum projects at the Mexic-Arte and Blanton
What couldn’t they wrap? “Bring it in and we’ll see if we can wrap it!” they told us. Musical equipment, drum heads, surfboards, cranial helmets for kids, buildings, you name it! Go ahead, turn your car into a ladybug!
While Austin grows and changes around it, Nick noted that North Loop seems to have a slower growth trajectory, almost magically retaining its character and personality over the years. Even so, the District is happy to welcome newcomers to the fold, and new businesses on the block quickly become part of the North Loop family.
For North Loop Sign and Graphics, that neighborhood character is important. The charm that makes for a great place to live and work also draws customers, a significant competitive advantage. If you can get your printing done in a charming little shop in a charming little neighborhood, why wouldn’t you? You might even spot the naked biker guy with the Crocodile Dundee hat who regularly bikes the area. Bonus!
Given their commitment to local business and partnerships, it’s not surprising that North Loop Sign and Graphics has been a member of AIBA for so long they’re nearly running out of space for new armadillo stickers.
If you’re still not convinced this isn’t an average corporate print shop (“far from it,” agrees Nick), just ask to see Jeff the next time you stop by. Jeff worked at the shop until he passed away last year, but the team wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye. So Nick asked Lucretia across the street at Room Service Vintage to help them find a cool urn for Jeff. And that’s why, on any given day in the North Loop IBIZ District, at the North Loop Sign and Graphics Shop, you can say hello to Jeff in his eternal resting spot: a vintage ceramic frog.
Overall, we’d say Jeff is a pretty lucky guy. If you worked at a shop this fun, with a team this cool, in a neighborhood this cool, you wouldn’t want to leave either.
Contact the team at North Loop Sign and Graphics Shop at 512-407-9409, or stop in at 102 E. North Loop Blvd.
—Story and photo by Eve Richter Dinnan