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Why San Antonio's Merit Coffee Is Entering Dallas' 'Elevated and Progressive' Coffee Market

San Antonio's Local Coffee is entering the Dallas market as Merit Coffee.
San Antonio's Local Coffee is entering the Dallas market as Merit Coffee.
courtesy Merit Coffee

Husband and wife Robby and Neesha Grubbs may be San Antonians now, but they met when they were living in Deep Ellum 25 years ago.

Since 2008, they have made a name for themselves in San Antonio with their company Local Coffee, but they’ve had their eyes on Dallas for a long time. The company has six locations in San Antonio and one in Austin, but their latest move is two new locations in Dallas due to open in the coming months.

“We’re just excited to come into a city that’s as elevated and progressive as Dallas,” Robby says.

One shop will be in Highland Park, the other in Deep Ellum in prime space on Main Street. They will go by the name of the Grubbs' coffee roasting company, Merit Coffee, which they operate alongside chief financial officer Bill Ellis. Work started on the new spaces in December.

Merit Coffee's mantra: "Everything matters." From the toilet paper holders in the restrooms to the coffee they source, everything matters, Robby says. Having a background in architecture has allowed the Grubbs more oversight of their coffee shop creations. Merit teamed up with Michael Hsu, a designer whom Grubbs met while working in Austin. When they decided to make a move on the two new Dallas spots, Grubbs says he knew he wanted to work with Hsu. He just gets it, Grubbs says. He gets into every detail.

Most coffee shops have good seats and bad seats, Grubbs says. When he approached Hsu about designing the Dallas spaces, he tasked him with making sure there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. People can expect a warm, inspiring and crisp environment when they visit Merit Coffee. They want to be ready to open by February, but there is still a lot of work to do.

“I’m going to open them when I feel like we’re absolutely ready,” Grubbs says.

Managers for both locations are in training, and shift leads are being hired. Their coffee menu will remain the same as Local Coffee's San Antonio locations, with espresso drinks, cold-brew and drip coffee. They usually work with Bakery Lorraine in San Antonio to provide pastries and other staples of their food menu, but Grubbs has been pounding the pavement on a search for a wholesale food partner in DFW.

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A first for Merit Coffee is the addition of a training center at their Deep Ellum location. This gives them an opportunity to continue improving and ensure consistency. It will allow the baristas to refine or learn new skills without having to experiment on customers. While it will be great for employees, Grubbs says they also plan to host public coffee cuppings, which is a formal tasting method.

Grubbs says he doesn’t want to take over anyone’s market share in the DFW coffee scene. The Merit team took this into consideration when looking at their real estate options. Other local specialty coffee shops such as Cultivar have paved the way for their company to open up shop in Dallas, he says. But there is a sense of community among coffee shop owners that you don’t see in other industries.

“I can’t imagine that Kroger, H-E-B and Walmart are all playing nice with each other,” Grubbs says. “In coffee, we’re all kind of carrying the same message.”

There is so much room for companies like Merit Coffee to come to Dallas, Grubbs says. He feels like they haven’t even scratched the surface. He envisions Merit Coffee opening three or four more locations in DFW.

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