Eddie Little drinks coffee every day.
Since March, most of his coffee cravings were satisfied by his coffee pot at home, but he wished for a cup from his favorite shop, Slowpokes, which had temporarily closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once the Garden Oaks shop at 1203 W. 34th St. reopened at the end of May, Little made it a point to stop by at least once a week to support the business. His order was always different: An Americano one week, a macchiato the next. But it was always to-go.
Before the pandemic, Little would sip his coffee at one of the high tables, or at one of the booths, which he missed doing, but he thought it prudent to wait a few months before dining in anywhere.
“I’m older, so I wanted to be cautious,” Little said. “But a few weeks ago, I dropped by and stayed to read while drinking my coffee. It was nice.”
Little, who’s a retired accountant, said that since dropping by and staying that first time, he’s felt comfortable doing so since then. He’s noticed more people doing the same, except he hasn’t seen as many students with a laptop and a stack of books as he used to.
“Staying at home was making me feel a little crazy,” Little said, laughing. “Coffee keeps me sane.”
Being back in a communal space gave Little a sense of normalcy, which was echoed by EQ Heights owner Kevin Blasini, whose coffee shop at 1030 Heights Blvd. is known as a social house.
“It was important for us to try, within the social distancing parameters, to provide that communal space with some sense of normalcy that people desire,” Blasini said. “While we need to change our routine to be safe and get beyond the virus, we also need to recognize there are ramifications of being isolated.”
Blasini said a few things have changed since the pandemic began. Aside from spaced-out tables, resulting in less seating, the coffee shop still sees a good mix of people who come in to socialize with family or friends.
“Prior to COVID we had a lot of live music and poetry nights,” Blasini said. “We continue to support local artists, we just refreshed our art inside the shop, but we look forward to the day we bring back our live music.”
He doesn’t have a date in mind for when live music will return to the shop. But part of why he looks forward to when they can bring it back is because it’s part of what makes EQ Heights a communal space.
Because the shop is so community focused, they try to use local vendors as well. By supporting EQ Heights, Blasini said customers are helping EQ and other local small businesses “claw back to normalcy.”
Boomtown Coffee, 242 W. 19th St., was a popular communal space but had to put that aspect of the shop on hold. It is currently doing to-go orders only.
“We have always valued being a space for first dates, marathon study sessions, important business meetings and more,” said Chris Porto, the marketing and communications manager for Boomtown. “During this time, we’ve had to pause being that space; we’re currently doing to-go only while we try to keep our staff and guests comfortable and safe.”
To help drive sales, Boomtown started selling its cold brew and Crüd — its espresso, cold brew, chicory and vanilla signature drink — in bulk quantities.
“We also began selling these amazing reusable masks created by AirX that are made from coffee,” Porto said.
Heights resident Shelby Richards often studied at Boomtown before graduating in the spring.
“I still stop by all the time,” Richards said. “But when I want to meet a friend for coffee or glass of wine, I come by Slowpokes so we don’t have to meet at one of our houses. I look for any safe excuse to get out of the house nowadays.”