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Sunday, April 23, 2017

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New café brings cozy Nook for work and play


Justin-Tijerina-2439

The Nook founder Derek Shaw brought staff and guests Saturday to try out coffees the cafe will offer when it opens Nov. 29. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

The Nook Cafe has been brewing its grand opening for almost five months and is weeks away from serving students its first cup.

Founder Derek Shaw, a UH alumnus, will open the café’s doors to the public on Nov. 29.

“We’ve been really fortunate, because the students have stayed excited; they’ve stayed engaged. They chat with me on Facebook; they chat with me on Twitter,” Shaw said. “So that’s been a lot of fun. It keeps the mind fresh. You constantly have students giving you feedback.”

The Nook was originally scheduled to open July 15 in the new center on Calhoun Road, which also houses Jimmy John’s, Café 101 and the soon-to-come Pink’s Pizza, but the cafe has faced a series of maintenance setbacks.

Shaw welcomed his staff and a few private guests to smell the variety of coffees and tour the space for the first time on Saturday. The Nook’s décor features handmade tables by co-owner Sam Wijnberg. The tables are old doors that Wijnberg cut into pieces and designed with a painted chessboard on the surface for an interactive experience.

“I hope it really adds to the atmosphere of the place and makes it something when kids come in, or when anyone comes in, says, ‘Wow, these tables are kind of cool, I like that.’ (That’ll make) me feel good,” Wijnberg said.

The café will also feature a library with handmade bookshelves across its back wall, made by Wijnberg. The library will include individual study areas, which can accommodate groups when needed. But it’s the walls of the Nook that will employ the company’s most unusual designs.

“All the walls are chalkboard paint. So we give you chalk and you basically write down equations or write out thoughts, write whatever you want to on there,” Wijnberg said. “Draw pictures, have a good time, study, (have) study groups. That’s what we’re going for.”

The Nook will rotate its house coffee flavors every two months, starting with Verve Coffee Roasters from California. Loyalty cards will be offered to all first-time customers, who can receive their 11th drink free with the card, excluding alcoholic beverages.

Public relations senior and Nook employee Deondria Taylor looks forward to serving drinks with the cafe’s Steampunk — a $15,000 coffee maker — and helping provide another nightlife option to the University’s growing on-campus population, despite the company’s hidden location.

“Whenever I mention, ‘Oh yeah, I’m working at the new coffee shop,’ they’re like, ‘Oh, Cougar Grounds?’ And I’m like, ‘No, there’s one across from Calhoun Lofts.’ It may take a little bit, but once it opens, I think we’ll get a lot of business, once they figure it out,” Taylor said.

Marketing will continue to be a challenge for The Nook, which is keeping its doors open all winter break — with the exception of Dec. 24, 25, 31 and Jan. 1 — but Shaw is hopeful that students will become his greatest outreach method.

“We’re going to have students in here, so whether it’s student artists, student performers, hopefully that will sort of galvanize the word getting out, because there is no better voice than people who come in here and say, ‘The place is really cool; you should go check it out,’” Shaw said. “Then it spreads like wildfire. … And so that’s a big part of why we keep delaying, because we want to be ready.”

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