Is Communion Neighborhood Cooperative the Future of Dallas Coffee Shops?

By: Beth Rankin | Dallas Observer

In a former auto garage tucked away off Central Expressway, entrepreneurs and veterans of the Dallas coffee industry have created the city's most forward-thinking coffee shop yet — not in Dallas, but in a quiet corner of Richardson.

Gorgeous handcrafted wood accents fill the industrial but homey space at Communion Neighborhood Cooperative. Light pours in from the former garage's walls of windows, and cozy booths beckon diners to work and chat intimately over gorgeous pots of fresh-brewed teas from Zakti, an Oak Cliff-based company. It's a casual space, but the coffee menu shows off just how serious Communion is about coffee.

Three roasters are featured (East Dallas' Novel Coffee Roasters, Austin's Wild Gift and Populace from Bay City, Michigan), and you'll find drinks ranging from pour-overs to nitro cold brew to Chai lattes. There's creativity on this menu, too: Communion serves two downright genius summer drinks that make us want to hightail it back to Richardson just for a pick-me-up.

The cold brew slushie ($4.50), which comes from a frozen margarita machine, combines smooth cold-brew coffee and almond milk with a touch of sweetness into a cold, refreshing drink that makes us wonder why coffee slushies aren't spreading like mad across oppressively sweaty North Texas.

The Cascara Palmer ($5) is a fun, refreshing take on the Arnold Palmer, made with cascara syrup, lemon juice, nitro cold brew and soda water. Cascara is a tea made by steeping the often-discarded skin of the coffee cherry. Communion sources its coffee cherry skins from Dallas' Cultivar coffee roaster, turning the resulting tea into a tea-like coffee syrup that's smooth with a lightly caffeinated bite.

"I think a lot of what was inspiring for us about the idea of opening a café was the way the local coffee scene has grown in DFW over the last five to seven years," operating partner Tim Cox says. (Editor's note: Cox has freelanced for the Observer in the past.) "We went from having essentially no scene for a long time to experiencing explosive growth for several years. It was an exciting time to be a part of the industry.

"At a point, though, I feel like creativity began to diminish," he says. "There were plenty of folks doing things really well, but it didn’t seem like many were trying to really do new things, re-create upon their own models or challenge their own ideas of how to do things. Having a space to nourish our own creativity and empower our team to participate within that creativity alongside us was a really attractive idea."

Communion's breakfast sandwich.

Communion's breakfast sandwich.

Beth Rankin

There's food here, too — breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, simple but delightful dishes ranging from protein bowls ($9) to Texas wagyu meatballs ($12) to rich, buttery house-smoked salmon ($13). As the day progresses, a hidden liquor shelf descends from the ceiling for whiskey cocktails and classics such as old fashioneds ($10), sazeracs ($11) and Kentucky mules ($9). The space also operates as a venue and gathering space, sometimes opening for family-friendly community nights. A repurposed vintage Airstream on the patio has been retrofitted as a sweet kids' play area.

"When we moved to Richardson five years ago, we always felt something was missing in this city we loved so much," says Amy Kahle, director of operations. "Early on, Tim Kahle [founder and managing director] had a vision to combine great coffee and a fun work environment. ... Then in the fall of 2016, the old auto shop on Lockwood, just off of 75 and Belt Line, came up for sale. Timing and financing lined up, and we found ourselves the new owners of an old auto shop garage complete with hydraulic lifts and past service paperwork."

Communion's co-working space makes creative use out of old shipping containers and what used to be an auto garage.

Communion's co-working space makes creative use out of old shipping containers and what used to be an auto garage.

Beth Rankin

The coffee, food and cocktails are only a piece of Communion's whole. Much of the building is co-working space, where people in need of offices can use monthly memberships to access desk space, conference rooms, a mailing address, even an outdoor space with fire pit and small putting range.

"Communion coworking space allows for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small- to medium-sized businesses to run and grow their business, but to also connect with people and businesses they would've never otherwise connected with in a deep and meaningful way, all the while helping to impact our community," Tim Kahle says.