“Do you know how to make a DC?” a boy asks the barista at I.V. Coffee Lab in Incline Village. When she replied that she did not know how to make it, the young gentleman explained in great detail that it is caramel on the sides and a half-pump of white mocha chocolate intertwined with crushed ice and lots of whipped cream on top, like a caramel Frappuccino.
Ally and Matt
The boy introduces himself as Max and orders three DCs for himself and his friends. He then asks for the discount he should receive for “making up the drink.” She politely gives him the normal student discount and he returns to some chairs where he looks like he’s conducting a business meeting. Max is probably no older than 12.
“When you’re 18, you can’t wait to get out of here. But then after you get
married and have kids, it’s ‘How do we get back to Tahoe?” -Matt Thralls
Owners Matt and Ally Thralls know Max and they fill me in with the back story of how he came to invent his special drink. The fact that they know this kid so well and have created a safe place for him and his young friends to hang out in is a true testament of how connected they are with the community.
It was one of their main goals when opening the coffee shop: to have a place where locals could network and talk, a gathering spot in the center of town. “Customers tell me that they go to Starbucks to be alone, but they come here to talk to people,” Matt says.
When Matt grew up in Incline Village in the late 1970s, he fondly remembers a strong sense of community. Businesses shut down to attend the high school’s football games. “There were no fences. I walked through the neighbor’s backyard to get somewhere,” he says.
When housing prices got too high, it forced young families out of town and into the cities. But as parents find that they don’t want to raise their kids in the city, a resurgence begins and the people who grew up in Incline, start coming back.
“When you’re 18, you can’t wait to get out of here. But then after you get married and have kids, it’s ‘How do we get back to Tahoe?’ ” Matt says.
After Matt graduated high school in Incline, he moved to Southern California where he developed a love of the coffee culture and met Ally, his future wife. Matt started working at FedEx and soon transferred to Northern Nevada. Although he had a decade-long tenure at FedEx, the lake was drawing him back and he never forgot about Southern California’s great coffee.
In September 2012, the couple decided to go all in on making it happen. They sold their house in Spanish Springs, Nev., and invested their savings and time into opening the I.V. Coffee Lab. Matt admits that they are not business people and that they took a total leap of faith.
“We have no business doing what we’re doing; we learned everything the hard way,” Matt says.
However, their passion for coffee, Lake Tahoe and the community is what keeps it going. “We had the perfect people around us to make it happen,” he says.
Along with running a coffee shop and raising a family, Matt and Ally also help coach the high school’s football team and girls’ basketball team. Matt says that he is still trying to find the perfect balance between the community, family and business.
“If you know it, tell me,” he says.
Matt said that he also saw I.V. Coffee Lab as an opportunity to contribute to the legacy that his dad started. As an Incline Village deputy sheriff for 30 years, Richard Thralls was involved with the community.
“He was all about the kids; more of a peace officer than a cop, you know?” Matt says. So when Matt was called up to Incline to work with families, reunite with friends from high school and help rebuild the community, he did it.
I.V. Coffee Lab is a well-known and beloved place to the people of Incline, and I find that it’s comforting to have the Thralls back in town. Matt’s motto for running his business is: “If you were to close the doors today, would the community miss you?”
I assured him we would, and fortunately they have no plans of closing anytime soon.
For more information, visit, facebook.com/ivcoffeelab.
Story & photos by Kayla Anderson