Locally owned and operated, Blockhouse Coffee & Kitchen is a quaint spot where farmhouse meets industrial with cute kids corner! Located in the heart of historic Richmond, Blockhouse loves to support local artisans. We’d like to introduce you to Aimee Frederick, owner of Blockhouse Coffee & Kitchen.
What ignited the spark in you to start your own business?
Natives of South Louisiana, my husband and I met while working for a popular restaurant concept in Baton Rouge. We were given the opportunity to grow the brand and open our own location in Sugar Land in 2007. In the years following our move to Fort Bend, we got married, started a family, and began exploring the Western US in our free time. Through our travels, we developed a love for cafe culture and craft coffee – something we couldn’t quite find living in the Houston suburbs. We waited years for someone to open a shop like we had found in every town, large and small, along the West Coast. But, as it turns out, we got tired of waiting. We started developing our own cafe concept in the fall of 2015, and by March 2017, in a nondescript building, along Historic Richmond’s main drag, Blockhouse Coffee & Kitchen opened its doors.
What are some obstacles and challenges you’ve had along the way?
Was starting this business a smooth road? Not at all. But the obstacles only toughen our skin and add richness to our story: there is no victory without defeat.
Our first vision of Blockhouse, which was to include a chef-led kitchen and on-site coffee roastery, involved project costs spiraling to reckless heights, and after hitting wall after wall, we reluctantly scrapped version 1.0. Looking back, there was a pivotal moment when we had to decide if moving forward, in any capacity, was what we really wanted. It was very much, “now or nothing.” We ultimately decided we had come too far not to make something happen, so we pared down our plans to the most basic version of a cafe we could imagine, and got to work. Four months later, we opened a cafe.
Tell us about Blockhouse Coffee & Kitchen!
First and foremost, Blockhouse is a specialty coffee house. We source our coffee beans from the region’s highest quality roasters, rotating them quarterly, allowing us to feature up to 8 different roasters throughout a given year. Like many specialty shops, we make our flavored syrups from scratch, and serve various house-made baked goods and artisanal items. And, we hire friendly, knowledgable baristas, eager to educate our customers about specialty coffee, and help them select a drink they will love.
Second, Blockhouse is more than a coffee shop. We are a community of craftsmen. Like we state clearly on our website, “… our vision is to be a platform for local craftsmen and an advocate for connection in [our] community.” What does this mean? This means we seek out and curate goods from our region’s best producers and artisans. You can find these products on our store shelves, our menu, and as vendors at special events throughout the year. We collaborate with local artists to create original art for our chalk wall and display their work in the shop. It also means we care deeply about human connection. We have designed our space so people sit with each other (rather than alone, at a table meant for four) which encourages eye contact and conversation. And you know what? It works. And it thrills us to pieces to watch it happen!
And third, Blockhouse is designed with families in mind. We pride ourselves on being comfortable, cozy, and kid friendly. Our furniture was made by hand by our friend, Zach Lambert, and is one of the first things people notice when they walk in the shop. We’ve set aside space inside our tiny cafe for children, complete with a chalkboard, blocks, books and colored pencils. We have a front patio for soaking up the sun when the weather’s nice, and a huge, shady backyard, for when the little ones (or the big ones) need to stretch their legs.
We are proud of all of these components of our shop, the coffee, the community and the space itself, and feel all three set us apart from some of the better-known competition.
What are some key elements or essential qualities to your success?
Because our business is only 11 months old, it is a little early to determine what will contribute to our success over time. However, the position of Blockhouse as a tenant in the destination property, Jax & 7th, will most certainly lead to greater exposure in the future.
So, what is Jax & 7th? Considering the Blockhouse property comprises the entire half a block at the corner of Jackson and 7th streets in Historic Richmond, we decided to name it just that – Jax & 7th. In addition to being a permanent home to Blockhouse, The Kombucha Company, and the event venue, The Guild, Jax & 7th also boasts a huge backyard where we host events like private parties, public markets, yoga, farmstands and food trucks like Renegade Kitchen & Catering and Southern Select Boiled Crawfish. As the property fills out and the potential is realized, Jax & 7th will become a destination all its own.
Who would love to visit Blockhouse?
Our ideal customers are residents of Fort Bend County who love craft coffee, community, connection and good design. These may be people who have a favorite quality coffee shop in the city, but can’t quite find an equivalent near their home. Or, our customers may be parents who love sharing a cup a joe with their spouse or friends, but feel out of place toting the kids to the hip cafe for the best brews. Or, our clientele may be caffeine craving students who aren’t enrolled in a city campus, but one of the satellite locations for U of H or WCJC. Over the years, we realized the suburbs need a quality cafe culture too, and we are hoping to fill that void.
What does the future hold for Blockhouse?
Five or ten years is a long time to make predictions, but a dream of mine is to be known not just for some of the best coffee available in the ‘burbs, but also as a community asset. I want Blockhouse to be known for connecting people to each other: whether through old-fashioned networking with the people you bump into over coffee, or by sharing the relationships we’ve already forged with local artists, craftsmen, food artisans and producers with our customers. As far as other locations… we do have plans to grow Blockhouse by opening new cafes in nearby towns, but nothing is imminent right now. Stay tuned, though!
Get in Touch with Aimee
Blockhouse Coffee & Kitchen
611 Jackson Street
Richmond, TX 77469
Image Credits: Erin Cummings