A Coffee Roaster’s Lifegiving Motto

Story by Kate Vanskike | Portraits by Luke Kenneally

(Image courtesy of Indaba)

With coffee start-up company Indaba, Bobby Enslow had the dream of creating community in the economically challenged West Central neighborhood despite neither experience roasting coffee nor running a business. And yet, he succeeded—achieving awards, receiving recognition, and continuously adding to his list of retail locations. An inspiring tale, but one that’s been told. Indaba’s story runs deeper than that.

The people—and their stories—are what set Bobby apart from other aspiring business leaders.

Meet Mary Kay McCollum, a Navy veteran; Phil Hocking, a computer technician; and Hannah Hicks, a rising business leader. Seemingly on disparate paths, yet sharing the same testimony: Indaba’s slogan—Love people, love coffee—is more than pretty words. Bobby lives by it.

A Path to Healing

“I get really emotional when I talk about it,” says Mary Kay McCollum.

She’s speaking of her experience of sexual assault by a fellow Naval officer, whose abuse back in the ’80s left her terrified and isolated for years. But the statement is also true of recalling the first time she walked into the Broadway Indaba location in 2015.

This was the year McCollum attended a retreat for veterans to tackle their trauma, where she thankfully met a journalist who helped her secure payment for the suffering caused by a member of the military. After more than three decades of silence, the pain of processing was unbelievably hard, compounded by telling her story to secure disability pay for the years she was unable to work. McCollum was suicidal, and when she entered the coffee shop, she told the owner just that.

“When I first talked about PTSD, I was terrified. But Bobby was just so encouraging and supportive,” McCollum says. “His compassion really affected me. He got me on the path to healing. I started writing and talking about it.”

Bobby was instrumental in her progress, she says. Every time she returned to Indaba, he remembered her name and asked how she was doing.

Six years later, McCollum continues her healing through photography, her relationship with Jesus, and encouraging other women to find their voice.

She still finds comfort in good coffee from Spokane roasters, including Indaba. Her favorite is a whole milk latte with no added flavor, so she can savor the coffee.

“’Love people, love coffee’,” she quotes the Indaba motto. “That isn’t just something to hang on the wall. [Bobby] really does it.”

Mary Kay McCollum. Photo by Luke Kennealley

Dignity Restored

As a child, Phillip Hocking had symptoms indicative of autism spectrum disorders that weren’t widely understood at the time, and, without treatment, he suffered from a lack of social skills and friends. After his parents acquired a PC and internet service in 1994, he found a placed he belonged through computer technology networks.

Phillip dropped out of school and pursued tech success, and when he scored, he began whittling away his earnings on drugs and alcohol. He was good at what he did, but as addiction took control; he began smoking meth in the bathroom at work. No longer employable, he became homeless.

For five years, Hocking lived on the streets. A church near the Broadway Indaba coffee shop had been operating a shelter and when it closed in the mornings, Hocking made his way across the street where Bobby was still learning to run his first business and not yet making a profit.

“I basically lived there,” Phillip says. “I was bipolar and having public freak-outs in the shop, and Bobby never asked me to leave.”

Bobby gave him day-old cookies and let him wash dishes to earn his coffee. He even played chess with Phillip, establishing a weekly tradition they maintained until pandemic restrictions.

“Once, I walked in and was crying, and said, ‘Bobby, could you just pray for me, man?’ And he did. And it was really impactful,” Phillip says, “despite my mental health issues and living in active addiction.”

Between that prayer and reading Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability,” Phillip found an ability to recognize his self-worth. He began helping others, caring for a friend’s family while a member was incarcerated, delivering food and toilet paper to addicts on the street.

In 2015, Phillip stopped his drug use, secured a job, and began paying for his coffee. Today, he oversees tech services at Excelsior Wellness Center.

“Things that once led to HR involvement or loss of employment now aren’t issues. I don’t have to pretend that I don’t have autism or social issues. My behavioral health is no longer a barrier to my success,” Phillip says. “I’m a homeowner, I’m married, I have a kid. And I have a future.”

Phillip is a coffee snob by admission, and proud to say he spends quite a bit of money on coffee. His favorite Indaba drink is the Natatorium—a vanilla caramel latte with cinnamon.

“He’s serious about ‘love people, love coffee,’” Phillip says of Bobby. “He was amid his start-up, and dealing with the pressures of someone like me there was a risk. But he put his Christian principles above a business principle. It’s pretty indicative of who the man is.”

Indaba owner Bobby Enslow (left) with Phillip Hocking. Photo by Luke Kennealley

Creating a Future

Hannah Hicks and her siblings grew up in West Central before the Kendall Yards development was a reality. They were bored highschoolers when Indaba opened in 2009; they hung out at the intriguing new Broadway shop. All the time.

“We would trick Bobby into giving us free lattes,” says Hannah.

But it was no trick. Bobby turned that “free” coffee into a dishwashing job.

One day, Hannah was talking about what to do after school. Bobby had been considering an internship program to teach technical coffee skills to support the growth of specialty roasters in Spokane, and approached Hicks with the opportunity.

“I became Bobby’s first intern, spending twenty hours a week learning from him,” Hannah says. After she gained work experience at another business, Enslow asked her to manage the Broadway location, and then another Indaba shop.

“Bobby was so intentional about giving me opportunity and really trusting me with it. He sent me to barista camp for certifications; he was constantly investing in me,” she says.

Hannah felt she was an active part of Enslow’s dream to create community. She and everyone else on his team were inspired to be family to their regular customers.

Just over three years ago, Hicks moved to New York City, where she had multiple job offers and selected one with a local coffee company where she started off as the manager of its busiest location in Manhattan.

“I don’t think anything could have prepared me like having worked for Bobby,” she says. “He inspired me to lead people in a way that’s focused on them.”

An ambitious young woman in a major metropolitan area, Hannah dreamed big. She applied to Columbia University and was accepted, in part, she says, to Enslow’s impact and recommendation. She became an operations manager, then a senior manager for quality overseeing a business in six cities.

“At every stage, Bobby has supported me,” Hannah says. “Yes, he taught me technical skill, but also about business and leadership. And to think it started with washing dishes.”

Today, residing in the Big Apple and studying sociology at Columbia, Hannah says she lives off simple drip coffee. She’s still enjoying her favorite blends from Indaba, shipped to her regularly from Spokane, where the people-first motto is alive and well.

“It simply blows my mind,” is all Bobby can say. “My little shop in West Central is making a difference.”


middle-school girls sit on Capitol steps

On Twain & Tweens

middle-school girls sit on Capitol steps

It was my first time serving as a substitute teacher in a middle school English class.  The topic was Mark Twain, and this should have been easy, as I had grown up near the park surrounding the great Missouri author’s birth home, attended a high school carrying his name, and lived in the same town – Hannibal – where Twain grew up and then used as the setting for the tales of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.  I knew as much about Mark Twain as anyone in this area –how hard could it be to teach about him?

After an hour of chaos, a sixth-grade boy dropped his pants and strutted away from me with his red briefs staring me down. I made sure the school district knew that I would not be subbing for middle school anymore.

That was about 20 years ago, but the experience left me dreading the day my own child would enter middle school.  I prepared her for the worst. Middle-schoolers are confused, I told her, and that confusion plays out in myriad odd behaviors.

She wanted to be part of a student leadership team at her school, which was a brand new charter school without those usual opportunities in place.  When I asked the principal if there would be a student council, he said, “As soon as there’s a parent volunteer to lead it.”

I now spend every Wednesday afternoon with about ten middle-schoolers – the very beings I once swore I’d ignore at all costs.

They can’t control themselves in the rolling chairs we use in the board room.  Constantly swirling, pulling the levers, adjusting the arm height.  Constantly squeaking, leaning back.  One boy can’t resist admiring himself and fixing his hair in the reflection of the large-screen monitor on the table.  One girl never says a word.  Another girl wants to do all the work.  They fight over the occasional treat of fruit roll-ups like it’s the last bite of food they might ever enjoy.

But in short time, these same students have shown their adaptability and eagerness to grow and to push themselves outside their usual comfort zones.  They can articulate why we need to talk to legislators about the importance of funding for their charter school.  They can demonstrate the ways their international curriculum has taught them to see topics from a global point of view.  They discuss leadership and agree that the three characteristics they find most important are responsibility, respect and organization, and they challenge one another to exhibit those qualities in carrying out their work.

These 12-year-olds have restored my faith in middle-schoolers.  And that’s why I traveled by plane and by bus with them recently to plead their case at the Washington State Capitol.  And it’s why I will continue to meet with them on Wednesdays and show them how to run meetings and committees and how to contact local businesses for support.  It’s why I will help them plan an international festival and a field day, and watch them make posters for dress-down days and help them gain confidence in standing before their peers to discuss the importance of good school attendance.

I’ll even volunteer to go bowling with them and be surrounded by 60 of their peers on a Friday night.  Because now – whether it’s because I’ve grown up myself or because I see their great potential – I don’t fear them as I did the kid who mooned me with his bright red briefs.

Twain said it best: “Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.”