COLLEGE STATION – College Station, otherwise known as Aggieland, is a booming college town in bustling Brazos County. Northgate is a popular destination here for students, alumni, and Texans who want to experience the Aggie way of appreciating a cold beer.
Just a few blocks west, you’ll find a watering hole with a much different vibe, The West End Elixer Company.
Dustin Batson is originally from the Big Easy but he wanted to bring something unique to B-CS, a bar that takes its beverages to the next level.
“It’s like an art,” Dustin informed us. “It’s like being a chef, but with alcohol.“
Since 2015 the West End Elixer Company has been Dustin’s dream come true, an opportunity to serve in a way that’s much different from the three tours of duty he had in the Marine Corps.
Dustin spent eight years in the Marines and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, after his service he attended Texas A&M.
“I never got my degree,” Dustin said. “I kind of had a quarter life crises, dropped out, and opened a bar.”
As you look around at the faces at this fine establishment, you start to notice something, you hear the stories, and you realize there’s more than just one former member of the military here.
“Almost everyone that works here is a marine,” Dustin explained. “My general manager is a marine. My kitchen manager when we first opened was a marine. This is kind of like a high-end VFW at the end of the day.”
With 24 staff members, the majority of them are former Marines but it’s not just the help that has a service history, so do some of the clientele. Ian Welch is a veteran and one of the regulars here. Ian grew up in College Station and decided to join the Marines right after high school, he reported to boot camp on September 10th 2011.
“That was the end of the prologue and the beginning of the rest of my life,” Ian said.
Like Dustin, Ian served 3 tours of duty, all of them in Iraq. In Bagdad an artillery shell nearly cost him his life, instead it left him with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury. Since being medically retired in 2010, Ian has been on the road to recovery physically and mentally.
“So I’ve had the opportunity to really focus on my health and my therapy, and interestingly enough a bar has helped me with that,” Ian said.
Niki DeAngelis may not be a veteran but being the bar manager is a big honor for her, especially when it comes to certain customers.
“Ian is so wonderful because this is kind of a safe space for him,” Niki said, “so whenever he comes in not only do all of us know him, but he feels like because of the crowed, because of everything that’s going on here he’s comfortable.”
When the West End Elixer opened Ian was still sort of in his shell but coming here has changed all of that.
“I heard about this establishment and so I came to do some recon, and that’s how I met them,” Ian said. “That was almost two years ago, so it’s been almost two years now that I have had this haven. Coming here for me has transitioned from a safe place as a veteran to now as a comfort with my friends.”
Ian is one of many veterans that have enlisted in this business and it all stems from a Friday night tradition at the Elixer.
“Once a month we do a veteran cigar night where everyone gets a free glass of whiskey and a cigar and we all just hang out,” Dustin said. “It’s a way to release and a way to relate and really talk about your war stories.”
The reputation of this place has even worked its way up the ranks. General Robert B. Neller, the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps has spent time frequenting this establishment.
“I was very blessed, and I couldn’t believe that I was a part of that,” Ian said. “I couldn’t believe it. I think my face still hurts from smiling that much.”
To Dustin, all of this is just part of being a business owner. Giving back while keeping a highly regarded reputation for serving some of the finest spirits and lifting the spirits of some of the finest who have served.
“Veterans have a soft spot in my heart,” Dustin said. “I had a really rough time when I first got out, and I needed a place to go. So, even our clientele are a lot of veterans, and you find comradery here.”