Nacogdoches has become home to a new coffee shop: University Coffee. Wedged between Grease Monkey and Whataburger, University Coffee offers plenty of space to study, fresh brewed coffee and pastries.
University Coffee is owned by the University Baptist Church which is located on North street just a few steps away from the coffee shop.
The new business opened its doors for the first time on Oct. 4 for a soft opening. Open from Monday to Friday, the hours were 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Jaxon Hart, operations manager for University Coffee and associate pastor of youth and college for University Baptist Church, said the church got a new pastor last year and that he wanted to open a coffee house to, “Bring the love of Christ to the community, to the campus, in that way,” Hart said.
Hart and his wife moved from Georgia to Nacogdoches to take the position at the coffeehouse and the church.
“It was funny because my background is in coffee and my background is in youth ministry. The church needed a youth pastor and the church needed a coffeehouse manager. I never saw those colliding, but they did. Through God working, I was able to find the job… it just fit like a glove,” he said.
Before Hart could use his Starbucks and managerial experience, extensive renovations had to be made to the building before it was open for business.
“This place is completely transformed. It was borderline unlivable, unoccupiable before we bought it and started renovating it. Completely redoing the plumbing, completely redoing electrical. There was no central A/C in here, the floors were refinished. A lot of walls were knocked down to make it open,” Hart said.
From his experience at Starbucks, Hart said they pushed for fast and efficient service. “We want this to be a place where people can gather, a place where people can hangout, relax, study and they feel like they belong here. That would be the difference. Rather than getting people in and out, we want them to come grab a seat and hang out for as long as they want to,” he said.
Going from a dance studio, a screen-printing shop and now a coffee shop, Hart said that the building had good bones and that the shiplap and flooring are original.
“We tried to bring back the beauty that was already there but kind of hidden,” he said.
The two-story coffeehouse is only offering the first floor to customers now, but Hart said they hope to open the second floor soon to possibly offer study rooms, not just study space.
If in demand, University Coffee plans to partner with UberEats or Waitr.
“Being on North street helps a lot… Our goal is not being to make stacks of money. What I’m passionate about is serving great coffee and I’m passionate about seeing people’s lives change from the gospel,” Hart said. “I don’t think that it comes just from playing Christian music or having Bible verses on the wall, but it’s through something that’s relational.”
The ultimate vison for University Coffee is to bridge the gap between campus and the church.
“There is a lot of competition. I think the amount of space that we have helps us and I think that the option of the drive thru helps us. We also make sure that our prices are 30 to 50 cents lower than Starbucks,” Hart said.
Noah Short, junior communication major from Kingwood, is a barista and a member of University Baptist Church.
“I really enjoy it. It can get kind of hectic, but it’s fun to have to run around the kitchen and try to make different drinks,” Short said.
Short said business is starting to pick up now that people are beginning to realize they’re open.
“The blueberry pancake latte is really big, so they like that and a lot of people are talking about it,” he said.
Another popular drink is the waffle latte, which can be served hot, iced or blended.
As a member of UBC, Short recalls a quote from a pastor.
“’How can you tell a Christian shoemaker? Does he put tiny crosses on the soles of the feet? No, he does the best shoemaking in town.’ That’s the motto here. How can we tell a Christian coffee shop? We’re just going to make the best coffee in town.”
Susan Groce, Hispanic studies grad student from Lufkin, visited the coffeehouse for the first time on Friday.
“I like it a lot. I like how many windows there are. I like the atmosphere better because it lets in a lot of light, even on rainy days like this. I work better whenever there’s real light,” Groce said.
Groce also said she liked the coffee she was served.
“I also bought a blueberry muffin. It was good. There’s a lot of space here. In some coffee shops, there’s not enough space to spread out all of my stuff when I’m studying,” she said.
University Coffee will be launching a loyalty program beginning Oct. 21 at the hard launch. New business hours will be Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.