By Christina Autry
In February, Slowpokes Coffee opened its third location in Spring Branch, a decision that Juan Carlos Rubiralta said has been long-anticipated. “It’s an awesome neighborhood,” Rubiralta says. “We saw a lot of similarities between Spring Branch and our Garden Oaks setting, which we love. Lots of development happening, good schools, friendly neighbors. We see a lot of opportunity here.”
Houstonians who are used to the quirky, relaxed atmosphere of the original Garden Oaks Slowpokes can expect the same vibe here, though tailored to the unique space in Spring Branch. After all, the name “Slowpokes” is an invitation to slow down, and take it easy, amidst a fast-paced schedule.
The turtle, snail, and sloth mascots of beer, wine and coffee encourage the community to sit down and stay a while. (Note the lack of drive-through, or a cheetah/rabbit/falcon mascot trifecta). Slowpokes’ weekday happy hour combined with spacious indoor and outdoor seating provides the perfect, non-caffeinated avenue for doing just that. From 4-7PM the coffee shop offers happy hour pricing on wine, beer, and bites, with half-off bottles of wine offered on Wednesdays.
Slowpokes partners with local businesses to provide delicious treats. “I know what we can and can’t do well,” says Rubiralta. “There are plenty of people who can prepare food better than we can, so why not showcase them?” You’ll see and taste products from Houston companies such as Slow Dough Bread Co., Kraftsmen Baking, Bare Bakery, Michael’s Cookie Jar, Angela’s Oven, Pastelitos, and Houston Dairy Maids.
Renovations continue on the refurbished Braun strip center on Long Point, and a variety of businesses are opening one by one. While Slowpokes is part of the leasing development, it does not follow the typical model. Customers make use of the large parking lot in front, walk through the outdoor corridor leading to the back of the building, where you’ll find Slowpokes.
“We wanted to create a kind of oasis, hidden behind the building,” says Rubiralta. “Once people find us, they understand what we’re going for,” he laughs. As Slowpokes was choosing their location, they took note of the space behind the storefront, full of shipping containers and storage sheds. “We asked them how they were asking for this space,” says Rubiralta. “At first they didn’t think this space was leasable, but we made it work, and we love it.”
Although Rubiralta’s first venture into the restaurant industry was through a Woodlands bakery that he started with his brother and sister-in-law, he focused his efforts on the coffee portion of the bakery and saw his passion and interest grow. Once he made the jump from the bakery to co-owning the first Slowpokes, he and his staff began diving deep into the world of coffee. “We’ve done a lot of training, including many courses involving brewing methods, extractions, roasting, maintenance equipment repairs,” says Rubiralta.
With a great deal of knowledge gained, Slowpokes is ready to take its coffee game to the next level; they are prepared to roast their own coffee beans. Thanks to the purchase of a large roaster from New Jersey, which they personally drove down to a Houston warehouse, Slowpokes will be able to roast 100% of the coffee that they sell. What’s more, is you’ll be able to drink your coffee in brand new to-go cups featuring Slowpokes mascots.
“Our goal for the next twelve months is to focus on our current stores, improving our products, and gaining more self-sufficiency,” says Rubiralta. “We’re reinvesting in our current business, and taking care of our team,” he continues. “After a year, we’ll sit down and see what our next move is.”
With at least ten staff members who have been on the Slowpokes team for the past four years of operation, the feeling among team members is that of growing opportunity and evolving roles. A majority of Slowpokes online reviews mention the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, who set a positive tone for customers the moment they walk in the door.
“It’s a friendly environment,” says Rubiralta. “Everybody is happier that way. Our staff knows our customers and their orders.” With about 70-80% of people who grab coffee at the Garden Oaks location repeat customers, Rubiralta believes that Spring Branch will follow suit, taking up a similar neighborhood coffee shop hang-out vibe.
“We’re super excited to be in Spring Branch,” says Rubiralta. “We’re happy with the way our build turned out, we love the neighborhood, and we’re thrilled to serve them.”
Since the Covid crisis has hit, Slowpokes has gone 100% takeout. Their coffee and good are still just as good as ever, so stop by and support them through this tough patch.
8147B Long Point Rd, Houston, TX 77055