“In the recovery community, there’s this joke that all you need is a resentment, two people, and a coffee pot to start a meeting,” says Roger Pilney, founder of Radix House. “So, when I was looking to get the word out—about the power of CBD—I started with the coffee first.”
If using locally roasted and Fair Trade Premium arabica beans to start a larger conversation about PTSD, trauma, and addiction was a long shot, it was a gamble that’s since paid off for Pilney. Inspired by a friend who told him he should start “an ice cream truck that sold weed,” he launched Radix House in front of South Austin’s Westgate Lanes in October 2020. And sure enough, as his friend alluded to, on the menu next to the lattes and nitro cold brews are CBD gummies, tinctures, and Delta-8-infused cookies. But this isn’t some gimmick for Pilney and his longtime friend and business partner, Gabriel Medel. It’s about community and empowerment.
The Radix logo, with its marijuana leaf dripping into a pool of coffee, is meant to symbolize the positive ripple effects that the duo’s cannabinoid mission could have on Austin’s most vulnerable. Pilney speaks from experience as a survivor of attempted suicide and a victim of child abuse. Having spent decades in the recovery community, he finally found salvation with the pairing of EMDR therapy and cannabis. It’s a one-two combination (“CBD is for coping with the trauma, EMDR is the solution,” he says) that has helped him overcome PTSD and the loss of his AA life raft, which turned its back on him after discovering that he was using cannabis-based products.
But the coffee mogul still takes many of those lessons with him. For instance, in 12-step programs, they often emphasize that helping others is the best way to stay sober. Pilney has taken that to heart, as he works with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to relay life-saving information. That’s why at Radix, every cup of coffee has a sleeve stamped with the group’s hotline. Their trucks, including its new location on East Sixth Street, are a little like Lucy’s advice booth in Peanuts, helping with everything from achieving better sleep to aiding an elderly pet.
In November 2021, Radix began carrying their own CBD goods, all made with locally grown hemp. Pilney and his staff can recommend the right dosage and flavor, whether it’s a jar of honey or dog treats laced with CBD rosin. With little overhead at the trailers and profit baked into the price of coffee drinks, the company can sell everything just above cost to encourage experimentation.
The impact Radix is having on the community isn’t a one-sided affair, either. Whenever the company has confronted setbacks, its customers have stepped up to help. During last year’s historic winter freeze, Radix patrons were donating $500 a day through Venmo to support its staff. Pilney also gets emotional when discussing the response to a Facebook post he wrote offering lattes in exchange for milk. With H-E-B limiting customers to two gallons per transaction, Radix was handcuffed by the amount of business they could reasonably conduct. But within an hour, a line had accumulated, all weighed down with an abundance of milk jugs.
“I grew up loving It’s a Wonderful Life because I had so much depression,” Pilney says. “In it, the town comes together to support George Bailey, and I’ve seen that same thing here.”
As Radix continues to expand, Pilney and Medel’s altruistic ethos will as well. Currently, they have two new trailers in the works and an ambitious set of initiatives in tow. Up until now, they’ve been donating coffee grounds to sustainable farming initiative Austin1Farm, but their goal is to produce their own compost-rich soil that they’d sell to benefit the Central Texas Food Bank. Additionally, they’re launching a a dog rescue called Foxy’s Friends to pair pets with PTSD sufferers. They’re even eyeing a cannabis farm in Oregon they could turn into a nonprofit retreat for those coping with mental health crises.
After cashing in his 401(k) to open that first truck, Pilney suffered a number of difficulties, including Radix’s generator dying on the night of its debut. But word spread fast, and they rebounded to sell 60,000 drinks in their first year. How many others they’ve helped find comfort since is incalculable. “Everything is gambled on this,” Pilney says. “But I know how important it is for people like me.”
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