Now that I've been shopping at House of Coffee Beans for a few years, I have noticed something interesting about the clientele. Not only is everyone smiling when they leave the store, they are smiling before they even walk in. Perhaps they are just grinning at the smell of fresh, roasted coffee that reaches the nose well before one reaches the front door, but I suspect they are grinning for another reason -- the same reason I find myself grinning when I enter. It's just a fun place to be, to shop and to spend a few minutes of the day. And as House of Coffee Beans celebrates its fortieth anniversary this month, owner Mike Malloy says that "fun" is really the only reason to do anything at all. "The bottom line is that if you don't get up every morning and have fun, it will be a very long day, and a very long life."
Malloy and his partner Roger Farver were already customers of House of Coffee Beans back when it was owned by Joy Stewart. "She was very enterprising, a wonderful person," said Malloy as we chatted over cups of coffee in the back office of House of Coffee Beans. (Iced French Vanilla for me -- the iced coffee here is absolutely heavenly, and they have it available daily, by the cup.) "One day, Joy called us up and said she was looking for a buyer, and if we knew anyone, to pass on the information. I was working as an attorney in a small firm, and Farver was working independently as an accountant." Malloy paused and smiled, and continued. "We knew our coffee. So we sat down over a glass of Scotch to look at the financials, and here we are."
House of Coffee Beans is a cozy shop tucked into a strip mall just next door to Murder by the Book on Bissonnet near Kirby. In addition to their wide range of coffee beans -- roasted by hand in a facility out on the South Loop, in pre-WWII German roasters -- the shop sells various coffee and tea accoutrements: mugs, French presses and milk foamers, coffee filters, and the like. My husband discovered House of Coffee Beans one afternoon when my shopping trip for mystery books extended too long for his liking. I emerged into the sunlight from MBTB to find him with a huge cup of coffee in one hand, two pounds of coffee wrapped in brown paper in the other and a huge smile on his face. "We are never, ever buying grocery-store coffee again," declared Josh emphatically.
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Blended, unblended, decaf, flavored -- House of Coffee Beans carries all kinds of coffee, and from all over the world. Light roast, dark roast and everything in between, Malloy and Farver also ship their coffee; you can place orders online through their Web site. "We send our coffee to New York, Chicago, Seattle -- all over," said Malloy. "These are former customers who have moved away, but also their friends and neighbors that they have shared our coffee with, who then order online."
Speaking of neighbors, Malloy also attributed much of their success to the neighbors. "We are right next door to one of the busiest, if not the busiest, independent bookstores in the country," he said, raising his coffee cup in the direction of Murder by the Book. "All of our neighbors here are small, independent retailers who are really at the top of their game. A rug seller, a frame shop, the bookstore -- everyone is amazing."
But it's when he's talking about his customers that Malloy's face truly lights up. You can see for yourself when you walk in to buy coffee, most customers are greeted by name and linger at the counter for a visit with Malloy, Farver or their staff. "We interact with different personalities all day, every day -- where else can you do that?" Malloy asked. "We love to see new customers, and welcome everyone with open arms. People come back, and become regulars. Our summer help -- Rice kids, college kids -- they become customers, and come back, in a very circle-of-life kind of way. Recently a student at Houston School of Performing and Visual Arts came in with his parents, and I realized I'd held him as a baby! Another couple came in -- a lawyer couple; we got them through the bar exam -- and they had their daughter with them. These are things I am thankful for."
If you're a returning customer, don't forget to wish Malloy and Farver a happy House of Coffee beans anniversary, and if you aren't a customer yet, I think one quick stop will convert you. Smiles are practically guaranteed.