By Avery Ballmann | Staff Writer
Alex Sanchez and Will Suarez never expected to own their own coffee company. Sanchez was Suarez’s only customer when he was selling coffee at Waco Wonderland, an annual Christmas festival. At that time, Sanchez was laid off from his job and Suarez needed a patron in the midst of a dreadful work day.
Flash forward to now, they both co-own Be Kind Coffee and are opening up an additional location on 1534 Washington Ave. in the first week of February. While neither entrepreneurs envisioned owning a coffee shop as their “when I grow up” trope, they have successfully created a brand that has spread kindness throughout the Waco community.
Be Kind Coffee began in 2021 and has locations on Lake Air Drive and in Union Hall. But, what makes the new location different is that it is their first brick-and-mortar location. This shop will seat approximately 30 customers with multiple seating arrangements and a drive-thru.
“I think we underestimated how much our customers would have value in indoor seating space,” Sanchez said. “That has been our biggest ask since day one.”
One shop is a small stand that is surrounded by other vendors and the other location shares its space with a meat market — not the most aesthetic place to study. Sanchez often asks customers their opinions on the business because he said the brands you remember are the ones that make the person feel valued.
“I think that’s important to get customer input and make them feel like their voice matters, because it does,” Sanchez said. “At the end of the day, we don’t survive if customers don’t come and buy drinks.”
Not only do customers stop in for drinks but they also come for the atmosphere. New Braunfels junior and barista Hailey Merkel also notices the positive environment she serves in.
“I like the downtown area and the fact that I’ll be able to go in and just sit down and hang out and it’ll be our own private space,” Merkel said. “I think there’s a lot of potential for the things that we could do getting this new location.”
Merkel has worked with Be Kind for a year and a half. She said she has learned a lot while watching the business grow — when Sanchez and Suarez started, they had two employees. Now, they have 20.
Suarez was born and raised in Waco and found a way to give back as a contributor to the community. He specializes in marketing and graphic design but also paints murals around town, owns businesses and teaches art to children.
“Being the business owner, I didn’t see it at first, but I know how much we’re impacting just by being around,” Suarez said.
At the new location, Suarez has taken his love for painting and incorporated it into the design. The large windows facing Washington Avenue shine light on the pastel yellow, red and blue hues of the walls.
Past the barista counter is a large kitchen capable of making all of the mini pancakes and other vegan food Be Kind has to offer. What rests on top of the tables is the woodwork of Suarez’s father. Last year his father suffered from two heart attacks, but recovered and is now able to contribute to the
new business venture.
“For him to even be here is kind of a big deal for me,” Suarez said. “For him to be able to kind of give us stuff, he’s not charging us, he’s just doing it, because that’s what parents do, it’s cool. It’s heartwarming for me to have a little piece of him in here.”
After Suarez spoke about his father, the two owners looked around their newly painted shop, which two months prior was a smelly, abandoned kombucha brewery and both held a soft smile.
“I want to create a place that people want to come to, because I know everyone has a choice,” Sanchez said. “They don’t have to come to us, they don’t have to go buy coffee in general, but we really appreciate when you do.”
To stay updated on the opening, follow @bekindcoffeecrew on Instagram.