Fresh coffee and locally-made treats are in abundant supply at Round Top Coffee Shop, but, as co-owner Carolyn McNellie will tell you, community is what truly tops the menu.
“A coffee shop is a natural community center. That’s the main thing we offer,” she said. “It’s why we have big tables. We want to bring people together.”
Round Top Coffee Shop, formerly Espressions Coffee, has been brewing up conversation among locals and visitors alike since March of 2014. And, as with many of the best things in life, it came about by chance.
A couple of musicians from the Dallas area, Carolyn and her husband, Johnnie McNellie, were familiar with the Round Top Festival Institute, but didn’t know much else about the town. It was during a visit in August 2013, when they considered taking part in the Round Top Fall Antiques Show, that they got their first inkling it might be home. After taking part in the September/October show, the duo — who had previously attempted a coffee place in the Dallas area — came across a small building that spoke to them. Not only was it available, but it once housed a coffee shop.
“I asked my husband, ‘You don’t suppose this is where we’re supposed to be?’” she said with a chuckle. “It was quite the little path. By March 14th we were open, even though home was still in Dallas.”
With help from their children, the husband and wife packed up and set down roots in Round Top. The rest, as they say, is history.
Carolyn took joy in meeting, serving and observing interactions between the visitors who entered the doors each day.
“Doing what we do is like living in a novel,” she said. “We have all of these great characters that come in. The soft-spoken, the loud, boisterous guy. It’s fascinating to see all these people come together, get along and find commonality.”
About three years ago, the shop added to its list of characters when it relocated to its current building, an 1880s home that was once in Ellinger.
Bennie Volcik, a German man who was born in the house — and whose father was, too — enjoyed keeping tabs on the former family home. When a friend alerted him that it had moved to Round Top, he made it a point to drop by for visits.
“He liked to celebrate his birthdays here, and we even had his photo taken inside before we renovated,” Carolyn said, noting a “Volcik House” sign sits among the shop’s eclectic decor. “He was in his 90s when he passed away just a few months ago.”
Today, the shop offers a range of coffees, sweet treats, tacos and other goodies, all served with a side of small-town charm. Haute Mess, also housed inside the building, offers antique and retail items, too. If a coffee shop visitor is lucky, they can score a seat at the “knowledge table,” a long table that invites conversation among guests.
As Carolyn noted, if people aren’t taking in knowledge, they’re usually imparting it.
“This path we’re on — it wasn’t purposeful, necessarily, but it was meant to be,” she said. “We love what we do and the people we get to meet. The journey has been extraordinary.”
Round Top Coffee Shop maintains abbreviated COVID-19 hours of 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, but will remain open until 5 p.m. during the 2020 Round Top Fall Antiques Show. For more information, visit their Facebook or Instagram pages.