How 3 Austin coffee shops are creating their own communities
Coffee drinking is on the rise. According to the National Coffee Association’s 2013 report, a whopping 83 percent of adults drink coffee in the U.S., up five percent from 2012. The trend is apparent in Austin, too, as a number of new cafés have popped up around town in just the past year. What makes several of these cafés sustainable, along with a building interest in craft and locally-roasted beans, is the fact that communities are forming around all of this java.
A trio of new coffee shops — Patika, Sa-Tén and Figure 8 — have successfully carved a niche for themselves in Austin by providing comfortable spaces in their respective neighborhoods where people meet people, feel connected and have serendipitous encounters in addition to getting their caffeine fix. Here, we look to them to see how they’re uniquely becoming part of the fabric of the Austin coffee community, as well as the community at large.
Wine and Coffee
Andy Wigginton and Nick Krupa
“Coffee is a routine for people,” admits Patika owner Andy Wigginton, who opened Patika’s brick and mortar space in late September. He and his partner and co-owner, Nick Krupa, want to become part of that routine, offering a friendly neighborhood coffee shop in the heart of South Lamar.
“Part of doing good coffee is [making] really consistent coffee.” Nick Krupa, Co-owner
So far they’ve succeeded, says customer Shelee O’Brien. She and her husband don’t live nearby, but they’ve been coming to Patika every Saturday morning since it opened to sip soy lattes and nibble on vegan muffins they smuggle in (Patika does not yet offer vegan treats) because they enjoy the vibe, which O’Brien equates to the pub culture she experienced while visiting the UK. “This is part of our Saturday commitment to get coffee and talk about creativity,” she says. “These guys wanted the kind of space where you could have chance encounters,” she says while nodding to Wigginton, who knows her as a regular. The compares Patika to other cafes closer to her and says that what makes the difference for her is that Patika is more inviting: the music is mellow, the service is consistently friendly, and the clean, mid-century modern interiors were designed with thought. “To me, this is a piece of heaven,” she smiles, staring up to the skylight.
Self-proclaimed “coffee nerds” Wigginton and Krupa started their operation by opening a small cart in downtown Austin in March 2010. Now located on West 4th Street and Congress Avenue, the cart is known for its delicious Cuveé coffee and extremely personable staff. Both entrepreneurs at heart, Wigginton and Krupa wanted to do something bigger and open a brick-and-mortar space in their own neighborhood. Their longtime goal was achieved in September.
“We’ve lived in South Austin for 15 years and we knew this was a neighborhood that we felt a part of,” says Wigginton. Only a few months after opening, they’re already part of the neighborhood’s constitution. They greet customers by name and ask them about their work and family, and even stop outside to pet customers’ dogs. “We like the people here and… we wanted to stay in South Austin and contribute,” he continues.
Wigginton and Krupa introduced an in-house baking program. They found their baker after conducting interviews from an overwhelming Craigslist response.
Wanting to develop and grow the company in its rooted location, Wigginton and Krupa introduced an in-house baking program. They found their baker after conducting interviews from an overwhelming Craigslist response. Dozens competed for the pastry chef position until they found Culinary Institute of America grad Bria Jones.
Jones is imaginative, says Krupa. Her rotating selection of savory and sweet concoctions — the chorizo and potato pastry, corn cookies and lemon thyme scones — keeps Patika’s menu full of surprise and delight. “She’s really working hard to create things that are unusual,” he says. “It’s been a lot of fun to mix that into what we’ve already been doing. It keeps the creative process really alive.”
Evening offerings of charcuterie and cheese plates, bread from Easy Tiger, an expertly selected wine list and a rotating menu of seasonal and year-round beers.
The creative essence of Patika is what makes it appealing. The pair continues to brainstorm innovative ways to keep the concept fresh and inviting, never wanting to settle or fall stagnant. So, with the brick and mortar, they also initiated evening offerings of charcuterie and cheese plates, bread from Easy Tiger, an expertly selected wine list and a rotating menu of seasonal and year-round beers.
While the owners continue to develop and perfect Patika’s model, their main focus remains on serving their customers and nurturing a sense of community. “Part of doing good coffee is really consistent coffee. That was obviously critical for us,” Krupa says. “But the other part is we wanted people to feel welcome, and feel like they were coming to see friends when they came to visit us.”
As a result, Patika’s hiring process is extensive to ensure that new hires fit with its positive culture. Wigginton says he takes great care in adding new employees to the café’s fun and friendly group. “I really do think we have the friendliest people in town.”
By Molly McManus with reporting by Clarisa Ramirez
2159 S Lamar
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