Sarah Wilkinson wants Woodrow’s Coffee Shop to be warm, inviting and friendly — just like her grandfather who the shop is named after.
After first opening in 2013, Woodrow’s closed last September due to a lack in foot traffic and exposure. After briefly repurposed as a renting space, Woodrow’s will re-launch as a coffee shop Monday, Aug. 27.
“It’s always been active in some form,” Wilkinson explained. “But now we’re reopening as a coffee shop.”
COFFEE SHOP BEGINNINGS
Hired by her parents Richard and Tammy Reno as the shop’s manager in July, Wilkinson said the business initially started as an afterschool mentorship program for high school students.
Although Woodrow’s eventually drifted away from that program, Wilkinson said her father always wanted the shop to benefit the community in some way.
“He’s never been out to profit,” Wilkinson said. “He just wants to be an entity in the community.”
Wilkinson said coffee has always been a big part of her family. Besides brewing, pouring and drinking their own beverages, Wilkinson said it was a family pastime to go searching for coffee shops and spend personal time with one another. White Rhino Coffee, Barnes & Noble and Starbucks were among several coffee shops that the Reno’s frequented.
One day, Richard’s favorite Starbucks restructured its interior design, and it changed the experience for him. They installed higher, more modern counters, while they also took out all of the armchairs Richard enjoyed sitting in.
Wilkinson said her dad told her he lost his quiet place.
“I think for him, that was where he started to come up with this idea,” she recalled. “He was going to make a really comfortable place for people to go, and it will be very quiet, very cozy and have great coffee.”
Named after Wilkinson’s grandfather, Richard “Woodrow” Reno Sr., she said nearly everything in the shop embodies her grandfather — including its sign.
“The sign said ‘Established in 1915,” she said. “The shop wasn’t open for 100 years. That was the year he was born.”
A WWII veteran, Woodrow lost his legs later in life due to old wounds he sustained during service. But Wilkinson said his attitude never changed. She said he would often let kids ride in his wheelchair with him, and every time they went out, Woodrow would always do the same thing.
“He wanted to talk to everyone,” she recalled. “Anywhere we’d go to eat; he’d get up and make the rounds in the restaurant. Just talk to everybody at every table. He loved people.”
Woodrow passed away in 2005, but Wilkinson’s father made sure he lived on through his coffee shop. Family from the area even came together at Woodrow’s during her grandfather’s 100th birthday in 2015.
“Dad always said he could have been a politician because he was so friendly,” she recollected. “He never liked to see anybody in a bad mood.”
When Wilkinson’s parents started the coffee shop in 2013, she initially had little to do with it. Even though brewing was one of her hobbies, Wilkinson pursued music in college, specializing in the French horn and eventually getting a master’s degree from Liverpool Hope University in the United Kingdom.
Even though she still freelances, tutors and records for bands, Wilkinson said she feels just at home at the coffee shop. She and her husband, Robert, have a 19-month old daughter named Lorelai, and she likes the idea of her growing up in the coffee shop.
“I love the idea of her running around here and in my father’s side of the business and just giving her a chance to grow up watching us all work as a family together,” she expressed. “Even when I was single and I was dreaming of the future, I always envisioned some sort of life where my family all worked together. I get to do that now with my parents.”
With the shop re-opening and regular morning and afternoon hours, Wilkinson said she’s looking forward to seeing how the shop fares with the second go-around; especially with how anticipative some residents appear to Wilkinson.
“When we announced we were shutting our doors, there was a lot of people that were like ‘Wait a minute, I never knew you were even there,’” she recalled. “That’s the kind of town Midlothian is. You always run into everybody that you know every day.”
David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX