Roughly a month ago press began coming out about Day 6 coffee and its two owners, Ricardo “RJ” Wilson and Jason Ian Wilson. Many of the headlines touted their place as Houston’s first Black-owned coffee shop. The two brothers quickly released a video on their Instagram making sure to clarify any misunderstandings.
“While we are a Black-owned coffee shop, we are not Houston’s first Black-owned coffee shop,” stated Ian Wilson in the video released on the shops Instagram. His brother Ricardo went on to further explain.
“To say we are the first Black-owned coffee shop would be a disservice to the other shops like ThroughGood Coffee and Kaffeine Coffee that have paved the way for us to get downtown and have the success we have had. The credit should be given to them and not taken away from them”
While neither of the two had expressed the idea of being the first during the wave of press, their need to clear up the misunderstanding and pay respect to the other shops showed the character that has been instilled in them. It is a character that flows through them into their business.
“Our name comes from a play on the Bible verse,” explains Ricardo Wilson as he takes a break from serving customers. “On the 6th Day God gave us coffee. On the 6th day God gave us plants and animals and we said technically he gave us coffee. We also want to play into the theme of creation.”
The theme of creation was taught to the brothers by their parents who also had a big influence on their entrepreneurial spirit as Ricardo further explains.
“A couple of years ago we started a plumbing company with my dad and that gave us a taste for business. He’s a master plumber but wasn’t really interested in the finances and the backend so he brought us in to manage. It was really a privilege to get the opportunity to steer the ship at such a young age. We took it for granted at the time but now, looking back what we learned, the experience was invaluable.”
While working with their father influenced the business, it was another family member who gave them inspiration to move into the hospitality industry. Moving to the back lounge of their shop Ricardo sits back on a leather couch with his brother as he speaks about what helps to drive the two.
“Our brother passed away in 2015 and his influence here is strong. He was a cook and a baker, and he always wanted to open a restaurant. He worked a La Madeline and cooked with an eastern European style. This is him looking down at us. Not only do I think he’s proud, but I think he’s right here with us.”
Their brother’s influence was always in the back of their mind as the two men set off on their own journeys in the culinary world with one moving toward the beverage world and the other food.
“I’m not a coffee fan,” laughs Ian Wilson. “But my Ricardo took a trip to Spain and came back a huge fan. He always wanted to open up some kind of shop that served coffee. I was more into cooking and baking. I was making cheesecakes and people kept saying I should sell them. I started selling them myself and he saw how good it was going. Then he just started pushing to open a shop together. He sells coffee and I sell cheesecakes.”
The decision to pool their skills together was always a part of the plan. With their brother’s eastern European style, Ricardo’s Spanish coffee experience, and Ian’s southern cooking the two developed a menu consisting of rich coffees like the Texas or Lavender Latte paired with food items like the quiche Florentine, brisket kolache, and Texas Pecan Pie.
“The brisket taco and kolache have been getting great reviews,” says Ian. “But the strawberry cheesecake is probably my favorite. Plus if you don’t like coffee we have some really great lemonades. He makes really good fresh lemonades.”
“The sleeper is the quiche and the chicken salad sandwich,” interrupts Ricardo as he excitedly talks about his brother's cooking. “People might not think much about a chicken salad sandwich, but you need to try it. For a drink go with the cortado but if you’re not looking for coffee do the Hazelnut chocolate latte. It’s kind of a secret menu item that no one would know to ask for but I guess it’s not a secret anymore.”
They had the menu but finding a spot to open and developing the plan to compete in the food service world is a daunting task. A chance meeting with a friend downtown gave the brother’s a usually unlikely opportunity.
“I was smoking cigars with one of my friends downtown because it was his birthday,” remembers Ricardo. “We’re just walking down the street and I happen to look through the window of this shop. It looked like a coffee shop that was almost completely finished but it had a for lease sign. I knew we didn’t have the financial resources open downtown, but I gave the landlord a call the next day. One thing led to another and now we’re here.”
With everything going on in the world because of COVID a lot of businesses had to shut down leaving landlords with empty spaces in need of tenants. That need for tenants gave the Wilson brothers a unique opportunity that they couldn’t pass up.
“It’s almost counterintuitive,” laughs Ricardo. “Why would you open up during a pandemic? The truth is we wouldn’t have been able to open up if the pandemic wasn’t happening. There was no chance that the landlord would have given us the shot but COVID had people a little more desperate and innovative. This is our first shot. This is the food service industry. It’s a big risk. Downtown has big coffee shops closing down and we’re just entering the market. We are here every day, waking up at 6 a.m. and working until midnight, putting everything we can into this to make it successful.”
The two have been putting their all into the shop with the help of friends, family, and staff. Operating downtown during this time has seen the brothers attracting customers with a series of soft openings as they try to navigate whatever comes their way. They even immediately had people coming to the shop as soon as they were able to open the doors after the recent snowstorm and power outages that wrecked the city. Ian credits the customer support with the atmosphere they try to create.
“Our vibe here is different. People come in and love the look of the shop and the story. We’re here and we’re pretty easygoing so customers come in and interact with us. Being from Alief we had a multi-cultural influence. It allowed us to interact with all different types of people and that’s a huge advantage for us. Nobody is going to walk in here and feel uncomfortable. We want a space that is welcoming to everybody.”
It’s the combination of family, food and community that gives Ian and Ricardo the belief that opening a coffee shop in the middle of a pandemic is just the beginning of their success. The last piece, community, is something that Ricardo knew would come through, but he still expresses his surprise and gratefulness in just how much the community supported them.
“People initially wondered why we were opening during a pandemic, but I genuinely underestimated the support we would receive from everybody. Its super exciting to see. It’s like people see what we’re doing and treat it like they’re doing it as well. It’s like they’re with us. The support on social media. The support in the shop. It’s one thing to have your family support you but it’s another thing to have other people and their friends coming out and showing support. Our number one goal is to win over downtown and the local community."
Things to know:
- Try the brisket and boudin kolaches
- They close at 10 p.m. during the week but Friday and Saturday they're open until midnight.
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