Story by: Danny Huizinga
Photos by: Mallory Olivier, Amanda Rubio and Jill Swartzentruber
Walk down Austin Avenue sometime on a beautiful, sunny day with a light breeze. Glancing around at the old buildings and ornate architecture, you can imagine what Waco looked like years ago.
But for some reason, there’s a strange emptiness in the present.
It’s almost as if the street went through a deep slumber and will soon awaken to throngs of people frequenting the many picturesque shops and restaurants in downtown. The problem is, there just aren’t many businesses that exist yet.
Brett Jameson intends to change that.
“I sort of fell off the cliff and started liking coffee,” he says. “I figured, if there’s no good coffee in Waco, why not make some good coffee in Waco?”
Back in 2009, Jameson and his partner, Alina Mikos, began throwing around the idea of building a new type of business, a fusion of a coffee shop and a bar. Blending their talents in their respective industries, they had a vision for a new type of business in the heart of downtown Waco. The name? Dichotomy, to represent the entirely different aspects of coffee and adult beverages that will be present in the new space. Newly located at 508 Austin Avenue, the business re-opened Nov. 25, after serving coffee down the street in an art gallery. Jameson’s vision of a coffee shop is different from the commercialized Starbucks you’ll find on every street corner. He tries to avoid “sugary-sweet” drinks and instead focuses on the quality of the coffee. Drinks are made with expert precision and Dichotomy strives for only the best ingredients and machines.
“Right now we have one flavor, that’s chocolate. We’ll probably have vanilla, but that’s house-made vanilla. We’re not going to buy any syrups,” he says.
In May 2012, Dichotomy started marketing its coffee at the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market. “It was a good opportunity to get out there and get some practice,” he says. Many Baylor students have tried the coffee first while there and realize the difference in quality. One student says, “The first taste evokes a feeling of relaxation and contentment, quickly followed by a realization that this place is different than any other coffee shop you’ve been to before.”
On one occasion, while preparing a mocha, the barista made a small mistake at the very end of the process. Without hesitating, he quickly poured out the cup and promised they served “only the best.”
Jameson wants Dichotomy to be a place known on the national stage. The coffee has already received an award from Imbibe magazine’s “Best Coffee in Waco,” as well as being featured in Texas Monthly and Sprudge.
As for the nighttime feel, the owners are striving for a classier atmosphere. This is not the place “to get drunk,” but a place for a quiet date, Jameson says. The combination of coffee and spirits also allows the shop to have a diverse audience, attracting crowds in both the morning and night.
Dichotomy is symbolic of a greater trend. Austin Avenue is truly experiencing an awakening. “The spaces are becoming harder to secure,” he says. “People want to get down here because they know the stadium will be open next year.” The stadium will bring greater life to all of downtown Waco, especially with the construction of the Brazos Riverfront project.
But what sets Dichotomy apart from other businesses in downtown Waco? Many well-meaning entrepreneurs have tried and failed to revive the area.
“There seem to be a lot of places in Waco that wanted to open a certain place, but didn’t seem to have a clear vision of what they wanted to be,” says Jameson. Dichotomy is different, he adds, because the owners and staff have a distinct identity in mind for this location. Though they focus on high-quality coffee, they want to make sure it is accessible to the average person, not pretentious in any way.
Dichotomy also features the first rooftop seating in Waco. Located just a block away from the historic courthouse and the Alico Building, there is a spectacular view day or night. The rooftop area also features waterproof panels that open and close depending on the weather. Even when it’s pouring rain, you can walk upstairs, enjoy a cup of coffee and look out at the expanding city. That’s an aspect unlike anything tried before in Waco.
Cody Fergusson, Dichotomy’s director of training and coffee operations, ensures excellent customer service is also a central aspect of the new location. “We’re selling an experience-—whether that be the interaction that you have with the person you have behind the counter, the place you sit and the atmosphere, or the amenities we provide with the rooftop.”
Walking into Dichotomy, you are greeted by the staff and treated as a friend, not just a customer. Building relationships is the key to a successful business, Jameson says, as it keeps people coming back.
Baylor senior Raechel Adams, found Dichotomy one night and has returned many times since. “From the freshly ground and deliciously smooth espresso to the artistic environment, Dichotomy is perfect for Waco,” she said. “I love that there is finally a place to get a quality coffee in a great location in Waco. It’s the perfect addition to Austin Avenue, and I can’t wait to see more Baylor students downtown.”
Dichotomy strives to fill a void in Waco, creating a relaxing atmosphere that encourages students to come and have a good cup of coffee, talk with friends or work on homework.
“As much as an awakening for Waco, it could be an awakening for the state of Texas to realize about Waco,” Jameson said. Dichotomy may be one of the first steps to awakening awareness for a city that has so much potential.