Nook Cafe cooks up competition, offers alternatives
Most economists agree that competition causes businesses to develop new products, better their service and update their technology to survive in the market and keep consumers wanting more.
It was with this in mind that alumnus Derek Shaw came up with the idea of opening up The Nook Cafe at UH.
“The idea originated when I was getting my MBA in the evenings at Bauer College of Business in 2011. I would visit the Starbucks at the Bauer College before class and be amazed with the line of students that would stand and wait for five to 10 minutes or more for a cup of coffee,” Shaw said.
“After visiting the Starbucks at the (University Center) Satellite on an idle Friday and seeing that the line over on that side of campus was regularly even longer, I realized there was no real competition for Starbucks Coffee on campus.”
The Nook will offer local products only, which will include a selection of white and red wines.
Students seem excited about the new options and hours. The Nook will be open from 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays and 8 a.m. to midnight Sunday.
“I think it’s great that they offer local products,” said digital media senior Laura Baena. “It shows that they stand for and are proud of our community. I also love that it’s open late. We really didn’t have any late-night options on campus.”
Shaw’s business partner Sam Wijnberg is particularly proud of ambiance of The Nook.
“The design of the shop with overstuffed couches and chairs, a library where students can drop off and take books at their leisure, and overall just a chilled out environment is something that seems like it is long overdue for the students of U of H,” Wijnberg said. “I can’t wait to see how the students react to what we hope will be a great coffee house with an awesome vibe.”
Creating a student-like atmosphere is a major goal. That’s why the team will display student artworks on the walls and hold poetry and open mic nights.
The Nook is Houston’s first coffee shop to a have a Steampunk system for brewing individual cups of coffee and tea, said Shaw’s wife, Amanda, who is also part of the team. This is a new customizable and PID (proportional-integral-derivative) controlled brewing system.
The Nook will serve a coffee specially roasted by Katz Coffee owner and UH alumnus Avi Katz, the Cougar Blend, which Shaw said is what he is most proud of.
“It was a long time in development and took a real collaboration between key members of the University of Houston and our team to get everything executed in a way that Cougar Blend was appropriately licensed, and The Nook was able to donate a part of the proceeds directly back to U of H in a way that really makes an impact to my alma mater,” Shaw said.
“Now I am really enjoying seeing the UH Alumni Association, the various departments and faculty, and the students really embrace the Cougar Blend concept of Roasted by Coogs for Coogs and make it their own.”
The team is working on a smart-phone app through which customers can order non-alcoholic beverages and pastries in advance.