Customer Weston Hughes picks up his coffee at the counter of White Elephant Coffee Company. Credit: Stephanie Marquez / San Antonio Report

If Monday mornings call for coffee, then news that a 4-year-old coffee shop in Southtown is closing was a letdown for customers at the start of the week.

Owner Jose Carlos De La Colina of White Elephant Coffee Company, 110 West Carolina St., announced via social media that Wednesday will be its last day in operation.

“Stop by and share the love before we go!” De La Colina wrote in his post.

He told the Rivard Report that he was closing the business because the wholesale roasting side of the business didn’t expand as he had projected.

Customers responded to news of the closure with both disbelief and well-wishes. Valentino Lucio wrote: “Thanks for slinging the best coffee in Southtown all these years. You’ll be missed. I hope you guys find a way to continue your craft.”

De La Colina, a former stockbroker and financial advisor, opened White Elephant on July 3, 2015, he said, with a goal to roast coffee for wholesale buyers and provide a meeting place in the community.

“When I came here … I scoped out areas here in San Antonio, and I saw a lot of growth potential in Southtown,” he said. “I really liked the proximity to downtown, the culture in Southtown, with people being able to walk to different places in the neighborhood – which is something in San Antonio that is hard to do.”

De La Colina rented the partial warehouse space on Carolina and Presa streets and purchased a 12-kilogram roaster with the intention to develop a roasting operation, with limited coffee service hours. The popularity of White Elephant grew quickly, with customers coming from the far reaches of San Antonio and even out of town, De La Colina said.

The exterior of White Elephant Coffee Company.

And even as the number of coffee shops expanded in Southtown, including Halcyon Southtown, Commonwealth, Brown Coffee, Don Martin’s, and Shotgun House Coffee Roasters, coffee sales at White Elephant remained steady, De La Colina said. 

“The goal was always to pick up the roasting sales side of it, and have that be our business and then offer the shop as a community meeting place [for] the people and the baristas,” he said. “We didn’t hit our projected roasting numbers, and I think we had reached a point where we had established something great.

“Ultimately, it’s a business, so you need to have some sort of growth happening at the business in order to be able to maintain it.”

De La Colina said the business he named White Elephant, which honors his family’s respect for the animal and reverence for albino elephants, was his own business concept in the beginning. But it was the baristas he hired who defined White Elephant in the end. 

“That’s why we had really great reviews, and I think we were able to give a lot of freedom to the baristas and let them express themselves and that’s what led to what White Elephant was,” he said. “I kind of just roasted the coffee.”

Of the six employees at White Elephant, some have already found other positions with local coffee establishments or in other fields, he said.

Wednesday will be the last day to purchase whole beans and coffee drinks at White Elephant. The roaster and other restaurant fixtures are being sold, though De La Colina says he’s in no hurry. He plans to work in software development next.

“That doesn’t mean I might not be involved in coffee in one way or another,” he said. “I’m going to miss it a lot, not only the community part, but also just roasting the coffee, smelling the coffee, tasting the coffee. I can take care of that at my home, but it won’t be the same. I will always have that hunger, just to have a space where people can spend some time together.”

Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...