Tough grounds

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  /Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton
A customer orders coffee at Big Mike’s Coffee shop, on Hickory Street across from the University of North Texas.
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Coffee shop owners say consistency key in somewhat flooded market

Denton has a lot to offer when it comes to coffee, from Jupiter House on the Square to Big Mike’s Coffee near the University of North Texas to Banter Bistro just off the Square.

And while each takes a slightly different approach, they all agree the key to succeeding in a somewhat flooded market is to offer a consistently good cup of coffee.

Amy and Joey Hawkins, who own Jupiter House, shut down its second location, Jupiter House Europa, at the end of October because business wasn’t good.

“We put three years into it,” Amy Hawkins said.

But the couple is excited about their next venture — Royal’s Bagel and Cinnamon Roll — which they hope to open in January.

They will turn the Europa location into this new shop to offer bagels as well as a variety of sandwiches. It is a market that is untapped in Denton, Hawkins said. It also will reach the lunch crowd, she said.

Jupiter House on the Square opened on Locust Street seven years ago. When the couple took over the coffee shop five years ago, there were three or four other coffee shops in town, Hawkins said. Now there are closer to 10.

“I honestly feel like we’re all just splitting dollars,” she said. “There are a lot of us.”

Coffee shops are going to have to do things to set themselves apart, Hawkins said.

Mike Sutton got into the coffee business three years ago after being the owner of Voyager’s Dream, which was also on West Hickory Street across from UNT. The shop sold eclectic gifts. Sutton said what helps his business is that it’s the only coffee shop on that side of the UNT campus.

Before Sutton opened his coffee shop, the Subway a couple doors down was selling a lot of coffee, he said. When he noticed that, he realized there was a need in that area.

He offers fair trade and direct trade coffee.

It’s not about making money for Sutton. It was created to build a community, he said.

“I grabbed the best baristas,” Sutton said. “And I gave them a livable wage.”
Angelo Fesperman, manager of Big Mike’s Coffee, said the difference between coffee and quality coffee is like the difference between fast food and a home-cooked meal.

It’s about more than coffee beans — it’s about caring, Fesperman said.

It’s about “having people that love to do their job,” he said.

Fesperman calls the shop, which is open 24 hours, a destination rather than just a location.

The area near Fry Street has changed considerably in the past year, with the addition of Sterling Fry Street, a student apartment development that offers several food options, such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Potbelly Sandwich Shop.

The new development has brought in a younger crowd, Fesperman said, which the baristas enjoy teaching about coffee along with the other customers.

“We try to teach customers about what’s good and what’s bad,” he said.

Besides the several coffee shops in Denton, there are also several restaurants that offer a variety of coffee.

Banter Bistro isn’t a coffee shop, but it offers an array of coffee similar to that of a coffee shop, including espresso, mochas, lattes, cappuccinos and hot teas.

“Everyone thinks we’re a coffee house,” said Ellen Ryfle, co-owner of the bistro, which opened in 2005. It offers paninis, sandwiches, chili and soup, as well as a selection of beer and wine. It sells 45 types of beer, she said.

“Part of it is probably the kind of restaurant we are,” she said. “Coffee is definitely important here.”

The coffee offered at the restaurant is either organic or fair trade, Ryfle said.
She thinks it would be difficult to just be a coffee house because of the shops that already offer coffee in Denton, she said.

The bistro’s approach to coffee is to be consistent.

“We don’t want it to change from drink to drink,” Ryfle said.

For Jupiter House, it sets itself apart by offering fresh coffee, good customer service and a fun atmosphere, Amy Hawkins said.

The shop on the Square also recently added a juice bar that offers fresh carrot juice and orange juice, as well as smoothies.

Another new development is the addition of new cups. The shop is testing a design that is expected to keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold — no need for a sleeve, making it environmentally friendly — and not sweat.

“I feel really good about where we are; can’t beat the community that’s in our shop,” Hawkins said.

RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is


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